My second favorite Scottish series: Monarch of the Glen

January 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm 23 comments

Monarch of the Glen castOver the last couple of weeks, I’ve cruised a number of sites that have featured Scottish icons, culture, and images while looking for inspiration for my posts about my guy reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

In the process, I was reminded of a television series I really loved to watch a few years ago. Monarch of the Glen was broadcast on BBCAmerica. With each episode, I followed the handsome young Laird, Archie and the amazing ensemble cast in their adventures around Glenbogle, trying to save the estate from financial ruin.

I also became a frequenter of BBCAmerica’s MotG forum and the Yahoo group, my first experience with online communities. After each episode, there’d be discussions on what was said (sometimes trying to decipher the thick—at least, to us—accents), who was first in Archie’s affections, or sighing over the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

Here is the series description from the BBCAmerica store:

The magnificent Cairngorms are the beautiful backdrop as Archie MacDonald tries to get to grips with being the new laird of a huge, decaying family estate in the Highlands of Scotland. Archie is 28 and just about to open his trendy new fish restaurant in London with his beautiful girlfriend, Justine, when he gets the news of his unexpected inheritance. Glenbogle is one of the largest sporting estates in the Highlands. He will be the feudal landlord over 40,000 acres, 200 tenants, a house which makes Balmoral look like a cottage, and with an overdraft to match. To make matters worse, his aged eccentric parents, Hector and Molly MacDonald, come as part of the furniture and the local schoolteacher, feisty Katrina Finlay, is determined to make things as difficult as possible for Archie. There is also the high-spirited and fiery cook/housekeeper Lexie to contend with.

Alastair MackenzieEach episode was a gem. The writing was tight and funny. The cast chemistry meshed. And the scenery, well, let’s just say that the Highlands were as significant a cast member as Alastair Mackenzie (Archie.) The cinematography was beautiful, and really captured the sense of immensity and “big sky” that I remembered when I visited 20 years ago.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Alastair Mackenzie is extremely easy on the eyes, and seeing his character, Archie, struggle with the decisions he has to make to accept his position of responsibility as the series unfolds makes for great angsty drama.Dawn Steele

My favorite character, Lexie, is the eccentric street-wise young housekeeper/cook, who came to Glenbogle as a teenage runaway, and never left. She’s earthy, funny, and always there to fix whatever problem crops up.

There’s also: the eccentric patriarch, Hector, who would rather play with trains and recreate the battle of Culloden with tin soldiers than manage the estate. Molly, Hector’s wife and Archie’s mother, who’s a free-spirit and deals with her husband with equanimity, and hides her grief over the drowning of their oldest son. Taciturn Golly, the ghillie (gamekeeper), who has been more of a father to Archie, than Hector. Katrina, the pretty schoolteacher who pushes Archie for liberal reforms. Duncan, Golly’s assistant, who provides much comic relief, with his boyish and sometimes naive good-nature.

Monarch of the GlenOver the first 4 series (seasons)—there were eventually 7, but the first 4 are what I consider the best of Monarch of the Glen, Archie and the family pull together to save, and later,improve the estate.

Of course, there’s also the personal and romantic journey Archie makes through the 4 series starting out as a slightly self-absorbed Londoner about to open a trendy restaurant with his uptight girlfriend, Justine, and growing into the Laird of Glenbogle, eventually growing to love the woman right in front of him on whom he has always been able to rely.

The romance, which built slowly over the first 3 series was wonderful, full of significant glances, and growing realization of deep feelings. Each episode, I scrutinized for signs of Archie’s affection, and then analyzed them with other fans in the forum. And boy, when Archie and Lexie finally had their big moment, the crowd went wild! (Of course, there was also lots of talk about the unfortunate giant taffeta dress she wore.)

Unfortunately, as these things happen, Alastair Mackenzie left Monarch of the Glen after series 4. Paul, a half-brother was brought in and became the new Laird. I still watched, and enjoyed, but not with the same passion (and yes, fanaticism) that I felt over the first 4.

I cruised YouTube for a cheesy tribute video. (see below. I love it! :-P ) I was surprised at the number of MotG episodes and tributes I had to choose from. Actually, my guy got me the first 2 seasons on DVD, and when I checked my county library, I was happily surprised to see that the first season DVD was available. Of course, the DVD’s are also available from BBCAmerica, Amazon, and Half.com. I’m actually really tempted by the combo series 3 & 4 DVD set. I’m re-watching the first season now, and it’s bringing all the fun back to me!

It’s well worth tracking down, one way or the other if you like funny, romantic stories set in the Highlands. ;-)

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My guy reads Outlander: conversations (part 2 of 2) Mini-rant

23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lea  |  January 16, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Hey Renee:

    I’ve always enjoyed BBC productions. Superior television as far as I’m concerned. We have a number of them running up here on one of the channels Sunday afternoons. All police dramas but very good all the same. The Space channel has also run a few Sci Fi shows that have been excellent.

    I’ve never seen this one but will look it up. Thank you for the heads-up.

    Best Regards
    L

    Reply
  • 2. AmyC  |  January 16, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I’ve never heard of this series. I added the first season to my netflix. As soon as I get my other two sent back, I’ll get those ones. Thanks for talking about this series. I’m always looking for somethhing different to watch, but I’m not real hip on tv and movies. I rely mostly on others suggestions :).

    Reply
  • 3. Sayuri  |  January 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Tell me your first favourite scottish series was Hamish MacBeth. Coz it was full of awesome.

    My sister and I went to see it being filmed and got our pictures taken in front of all the house and had a drink in the pub. I loved Robert Carlyle. *le sigh* He is so handsome IRL.

    Reply
  • 4. Lea  |  January 16, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Renee:

    I notice you like UF – I don’t know if you’ve read Kat Richardson’s “Greywalker Series”, but it is excellent. Here is the Amazon link:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/series/92869/ref=pd_serl_books?ie=UTF8&edition=paperback

    L

    Reply
  • 5. Renee  |  January 16, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Lea: Unfortunately, BBCAmerica doesn’t seem to show these great series’ anymore. Mostly, it’s (like American tv) reality shows. A few years ago, it was mostly dramas in the afternoons, and I’d tape them.

    Space Channel sounds good! Like SciFi Channel.

    Hope you can get a hold of MotG!

    I love Kat Richardson’s Harper Blaine! I actually think each book has gotten successively stronger. And I love Quinton, too! I posted here about the latest one.

    AmyC: Hopefully, MotG will work better for you than A Brother’s Price. lol
    I’m glad to hear NetFlix has it. I’m really having a good time watching the 1st season again.

    Sayuri: LOL Actually, I meant the book series, Outlander.

    Hamish MacBeth! I waited and waited for Hamish and Isobel to finally get it together! Anything Shirley Henderson is in, and I’m there! (Not to mention Robert Carlyle, of course.) :-)

    Reply
  • 6. Renee  |  January 16, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Sayuri: OK, now you’ve got me thinking about other shows I loved from Scotland. Here are a few of them: 2 Thousand Acres of Sky (oh! man, I loved it!), Rebus (John Hannah!), and one about a mountain climbing rescue group whose name escapes me.

    Reply
  • 7. Kaitlin/Bridget Locke  |  January 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Hiya! I love BBC America’s stuff. I’m rewatching Sense & Sensibility, the Masterpiece Theater version for the billionth time. My friends love me. I’ll have to look this one up.

    And your package goes out on Monday. I think you’ll like everything. I feel so guilty for not getting the book to you in a timely manner that I kind of spoiled you. LOL!

    Reply
  • 8. Renee  |  January 16, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Hey Kaitlin! I get those BBCAmerica store catalogs in the mail, and lust over the DVD collections they have, especially the Jane Austen one.
    Cool! I’ll keep an eye out for it. lol. Thanks, you didn’t have to spoil me, but I’ll look forward to it, nonetheless!

    Reply
  • 9. Mary  |  April 24, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I have just been watching MOTG on dvd and love it. My 11-year-old daughter is watching too and it’s such a great family show I don’t have to worry about her seeing anything innappropriate. I also am in love, of course, with Archie and Lexie. Dawn Steele is such a beautiful woman. It’s an interesting portrayal that the 2 chique, urban women (Justine and Stella Moon) are both skinny, too-hip, with extremely short hair and sort of emasculating, while the 2 who capture Archie’s heart (Katrina and Lexie) are both earthy and natural “real women.” I love that the two of them don’t fit the American paradigm for actresses — anorexic, enormous artificial breasts, dyed blondes with big hair. They are real women with hips and rears and still are both beautiful and sexy. I wish American TV and movies would move avway from the excessive Barbie doll look. My daughter just loves Lexie too and comments all the time on her different hair styles! I’m afraid, though, we both shrieked at the enormous red ball gown in the Archie-Lexie-get-together scene. What were they THINKing!
    We just started series 5 and I think the quality is going down. I learned from the web that Archie leaves this season – boo. the whole thing is just wonderfully charming and I’ve been speaking in a phony brogue for weeks! And Susan Hampshire is marvelous.

    Reply
  • 10. Renee  |  April 24, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Mary: So glad to hear you’ve enjoyed it so much! It is such a “feel-good” series, and there’s something about the characters that make the watcher care so much!
    I definitely loved that Lexie has her own sense of style, and yes, she and Katrina are not model-types, but real women.
    lol. Yes, that dress was something, wasn’t it? I remember the moaning from the message boards. IIRC, the dress was a big deal, designed by famous Brit designer, Vivienne Westwood. I’ve seen some of her other stuff, and I quite like it. She is sort of avant garde. But, I thought that dress was pretty awful, too.
    Yes, unfortunately when Alastair MacKenzie leaves the series, it really flounders. He was the lynchpin to the premise of the show, and I don’t think they ever regained a real steady focus. However, the ensemble cast was so good, I think they were able to eke it out for a few more series.

    Reply
  • 11. Mary  |  May 15, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    So, Renee, help me out here. My daughter and I are on season 7 now of MOTG but we were devastated when Archie up and left Lexie to go off for who knows how long. He doesn’t call (the people I’ve known who’ve climbed Everest or trekked in the Himalayas e-mail their loved ones regularly, which is way easier than calling apparently). Then they’re suddenly in New Zealand apparently operating a vineyard! Then Lexie’s back, all sad, with the fairytale love story on the rocks, and tempted by the handsome half-brother (which I would have been too…) We were so sad! We kept waiting for reassurance that they had made a happy life in NZ, but there is basically no mention of them again. Molly even goes to NZ, but never mentions their names or says how they’re doing.
    It didn’t seem in keeping for the character of Archie, who was so madly in love that he twice chases after Lexie when she flees the altar, to up and leave her, then apparently be such a jerk she leaves him. And Lexie seemed defeated, which also was not in keeping with her character. Didn’t fit for her to fall in love with Paul. At least they didn’t sleep together (which they would have if this was American tv!)
    Okay, then the next season Paul is hot after Isobel, the farmer, and it ends with his chasing her into the woods for who-knows-what fun. So Season 7 starts, and Isobel has vaporized! Not a mention of her, and now there’s this new woman, Iona – who is a stunner, so Paul is probably okay with that.
    I wonder what your MOTG chat boards had to say about all of this!
    By the way, I suppose the big red dress was supposed to be a ball gown to complete the fairy tale analogy – Cinderella dances with Prince Charming and all that.

    Sigh. They should have ended the show after season 4, when they went off on their honeymoon. A complete story arc for Archie and all ends happily.
    Wouldn’t it be fun to see a show following their life in NZ with a whole new cast of Kiwi quirky characters and life at the vineyard.

    Reply
  • 12. Renee  |  May 18, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Mary: Yes, isn’t it a pity when a good series has to scramble to make adjustments when the star leaves? Sometimes it’s done with greater success than other times. Unfortunately, MotG really floundered. I actually liked the addition of Paul to the show. I think he brought some great dramatic tension with his relationship with Archie. Archie really had to dig deep and accept that he wanted to be laird, rather than feel it was an obligation that was thrust upon him.

    However, Archie’s actual departure is so antithetical to the series premise and his subsequent romance with Lexie, that the explanations for it always fall short. I agree, that it might have been better to move on at that point.

    Honestly, by the season with Isobel, my interest had waned, and I don’t even remember if I finished watching it. In fact, I can’t even remember seeing that the last season was ever broadcast on BBCAmerica. (It may have been, but I don’t recollect.)

    That would be awesome to follow them to NZ! I would SO watch that. :-)

    Now, if you’re interested in other wonderful Scottish series, I HIGHLY recommend Two Thousand Acres of Sky and Hamish MacBeth. Both are examples of great acting and writing, set among some amazing Scottish scenery.

    Good luck! :-)

    Reply
  • 13. Mary  |  May 18, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks Renee. The list of shows that floundered when the principal actors/characters departed, or suffered from clumsy writing as writers scrambled to explain the changes within the context of the story, is probably long! It’s too bad, though, that they seem to think they can gloss over changes and ignore a sense of continuity in a storyline. The only character departure in this show that I thought was in keeping with the character was Hector blowing himself up. Horrible, yet so weird it fit for him (except when the bomb went off, the puppy was sitting right by it, but wasn’t hurt…hmm).
    We will check out those other shows. We don’t watch American TV as it is mostly so superficial and artificial (and violent and oversexed).
    Meanwhile, for my own sense of closure, I’ll just figure that Lexie went back to Archie, who was contrite and they reconciled and made a marvelous life in beautiful New Zealand… drinking wine..drifting into the sunset…

    Reply
  • 14. sandra  |  January 29, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I’m watching motg in South Africa and all of a sudden Archie and Lexie’s gone – I agree with all the comments – just no follow on – but I still love Molly (who has also disappeared to NZ) and Golly (the dancing teacher has just up and left him) good riddance I say. But I see that we are rather behing here in SA but I just love it

    Reply
  • 15. Michelle  |  February 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    I have watched the entire program from the first season all the way to the end, several times and I never get sick of watching it! With all the snow we have had this winter, it has been my feel-good go-to video to relieve the cabin fever. I would love to see a reunion of the cast. What an all-time great program! Funny, clever, serious, all wrapped into one. My daughter and husband are hooked on it too!

    Reply
  • 16. Lyn  |  May 27, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Why didn’t Archie ever come back for a visit? Why did all the original characters, except Molly and Golly leave the show? What went on that all the main characters were written out? Archie NEVER returned, no even for a moment!

    Reply
  • 17. Gail Kendall  |  June 8, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Hello all,

    I love BBC Masterpiece Theater and Mystery. Jane Austen lobe her work. I have every book I could find on her. I came across Monarch of the Glen on Netflix.I fell in love immediately! !! :) I hated seeing all the changes in cast! I am now looking for the last season and the books. Oh to have lived in those times. I have one friend and we search for these such series.

    Reply
  • 18. Shay  |  June 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Just finished the entire series of Monarch of the Glen. Sad to watch the last episode as I wanted it to go on and on. Scotland’s scenery is beautiful, the characters outstanding and storylines engaging. Love that Hector! I would highly recommend anyone to experience this T.V. series….you won’t be disappointed.

    Reply
  • 19. Anne H  |  September 11, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Loved the series through season 5; increasing disappointment set in through 6 & 7. Problem was with the storyline after Archie and Lexie left for NZ. Show lacked continuity and strong characters to carry it. Those who stayed on became one dimensional and disconnected. Moreover, there were too many new faces coming and going so no opportunity for audience to develop a connection. And, even if Arch-Lex left, they should have included references to them especially during times of crisis facing Glenbogle towards the end. Surely Archie should have maintained interest in Glenbogle and his mother at the very least. Hope there is a follow up series soon!

    Reply
  • 20. Deb Wickens  |  January 19, 2014 at 11:43 am

    I’ve just started the series and am loving it, halfway through Season 3 now – was surprised when Katrina left for her big job in the city but assumed she’d be back! – Was very disappointed to learn that Katrina never returns. I shouldn’t be reading these forums before finishing the series but it seems like we lose almost all of these beloved characters by the end of it all – what a shame. Will keep watching anyway, still enjoying it so much!!

    Reply
    • 21. Steve G  |  January 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      What is it with these people who blab about the plot before other have gotten to that point in the series?! Those are called “spoilers”. Feel free to tell why you like/don’t like the series, BUT KEEP THE PLOT DEVELOPMENTS TO YOURSELF PLEASE!

      Reply
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