First published in 1908, Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” has become a staple of children’s literature, but Montgomery intended it to be read by all ages.
It follows 11-year-old Anne Shirley, a plucky, imaginative orphan who mistakenly winds up with middle-aged siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who’d intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm on Prince Edward Island, in the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada.
But in time, Anne and the Cuthberts form a family, and Anne gets to know the other residents of the small town of Avonlea.
The book has sold more than 50 million copies, in 20 languages, and was followed by several sequels and an authorized prequel. It’s also been adapted many times — on TV, in feature films and animation, and on stage — most notably in a 1985 four-hour TV miniseries version from Canada’s CBC network, starring Megan Follows.
Now, streaming service Netflix, which has moved aggressively into children’s programming — including the recent “Beat Bugs,” which we reviewed — is joining forces with CBC to produce an eight-hour version of the story, set to stream globally on Netflix and air in Canada on CBC in 2017.
The writer is Emmy-winner Moira Walley-Beckett, a Canadian-born actress, producer and screenwriter, who wrote and produced for the hit drama series “Breaking Bad” (though this new project will definitely mark a departure from that dark drama about a drug dealer).
“Anne,” as it will be called, may represent a outgrowth of the desire of Netflix head Ted Sarandos to move into family — or, as it’s now called, “co-viewing” — programming. Here’s what he said when I asked him about this type of programming at a press event in August:
Well, I think we’ve got “Fuller House” as an example of just one [co-viewing show], and I think you will find also with the “One Day at a Time” reboot, these are really meant for co-viewing. They kind of bring you back to a time when people used to be able to watch television shows together without being incredibly embarrassed with one another, and we’re going to be pushing a lot more of that, so there’s not a specific strategy to saying we’re going to do this and not do that. We’re really looking for great stories that are geared to a broad swath of the population, and co-viewing is an important segment of that, and we’re looking for more of it for sure.
From today’s (Aug. 22) edition of The Hollywood Reporter:
“Anne Shirley is one of Canada’s greatest gifts to the world, known and loved internationally, so we’re thrilled to be working with the CBC and Northwood to bring this charismatic character to both new and old fans around the world,” Netflix vp of content Elizabeth Bradley said.
Miranda de Pencier (Beginners) will produce under her Northwood Entertainment banner. Wally-Beckett will also exec produce with Alison Owen (Saving Mr. Banks) and Debra Hayward (Bridget Jones Diary), with the trio all serving as showrunners. Susan Murdoch will produce. Production is set to begin in Ontario next month.
“Moira Walley-Beckett has written eight riveting, funny, emotional, surprising, beautiful hours of television. With the extraordinary talent of Niki Caro at the helm, we can’t wait to deliver our show to Netflix, CBC and the world,” de Pencier said. “Netflix as our global partner means Anne’s indomitable spirit can now enter homes and hearts all over the world.”
Regarding whether the “Anne of Green Gables” source material is suitable for Catholic families, here’s what Catholic Father Charles Fink had to say, regarding the 1985 miniseries version:
When was the last time you watched television or went to a movie and felt refreshed, happier to be alive, and hopeful about humanity? Anne of Green Gables will bring you to that place, which isn’t to say it’s all sweetness and light. There are real villains and real tragedies to be dealt with, but in the end, the series leaves one wanting more and feeling not just happy but privileged to be alive.
God speaks in many ways through many media. He speaks loud and clear in Anne of Green Gables, in spite of its not being a specifically religious movie. Do yourself and your family a favor. Get it. Watch it. When it’s finished, you’ll want to begin all over again.
And, if the new “Anne” doesn’t turn out as well as we all hope, you can always watch the version that Father Fink saw. Click here for that.
Image: Courtesy Skylark Books