My second favorite Scottish series: Monarch of the Glen
Over 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.
Each 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.
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.
Over 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! ) 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.