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How Did Heartland Become the Longest-Running Scripted Drama in Canadian TV History? – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

How Did Heartland Become the Longest-Running Scripted Drama in Canadian TV History?



Heartland is a popular family comedy-drama show that premiered on CBC on October 14, 2007, and has been renewed regularly ever since. The show, which is based on the 25-novel series by Lauren Brooke, has been acquired by several streaming platforms, including Netflix. Heartland follows the life of Amy Fleming (Amber Marshall), who has a special connection to the animals on her grandfather Jack Bartlett’s (Shaun Johnston) land. Amy grows up to be a renowned horse trainer and emotional healer after starting off as a timid teenager. When her mother Marion dies, her estranged father Tim Fleming (Chris Potter) and her older sister Lou (Michelle Morgan) return to the ranch to lend a helping hand but end up staying indefinitely. These four characters have been around since the first season, and many others have joined them along the way, adding to the complex tapestry of heartwarming and distressing incidents and events.

Heartland’s enduring success is undeniable. The show’s breathtaking scenery is one of its main visual strong suits. With its prairies, mountains, and lakes, the Canadian province of Alberta provides an idyllic setting for scenes involving picnics, trail rides, cattle drives, rafting, romantic escapades, and solitary reflection. The show feels so authentic because some of the actors are used to country living and perform the most basic riding scenes themselves, while stunt doubles take over in dangerous sequences. Besides the four main characters, many others have been featured through the seasons, and they come from different ages and backgrounds to appeal to an eclectic audience.

In this multigenerational cohabitation, it’s not easy for the family members to assert their individual views, needs, and desires, and they clash multiple times over the seasons, but they always manage to reconnect, whether on a horse ride, a fishing or camping trip, or around a hearty meal at home. Animals are also considered family and cared for dearly, be it horses, dogs, or cattle. Compassion towards both people and animals and a profound appreciation of nature are central to the show.

Heartland thoroughly explores a multitude of personal and social topics with minimal violence and no profanity, whether it be substance abuse, depression, extramarital affairs, challenging career moves, estranged parents, fostered children, grief, health scares, natural disasters, political campaigns, creative activities, fundraisers, or teenage angst. The characters are far from perfect and exhibit bouts of stubbornness, melancholy, jealousy, ambition, anger, or greed, and this is precisely what makes them so relatable and keeps the viewers so invested.

Heartland is, essentially, a modern-day Western show set in the Canadian prairie at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It is therefore only natural for many episodes to feature dreamy overnight trail rides, challenging cattle drives, thrilling bronc, roping, and bull riding rodeos, jumping competitions, barrel races, and even graceful liberty acts. Unlike traditional Westerns, though, the show puts female talent forward in an otherwise macho field, not to mention that the lead character herself is nicknamed “Miracle Girl” for her extraordinary horse-whispering ability.

In conclusion, Heartland is a show that combines gorgeous filming locations, a solid multigenerational cast, relatable psychological and communal issues, and exciting equestrian trips and competitions. It is a family-friendly show that is worth watching for anyone who loves a heartwarming and inspiring story.

Based on the 25-novel series by Lauren Brooke, Heartland is a family comedy-drama show that premiered on CBC on October 14, 2007, and has been renewed regularly ever since. As of March 2015, it surpassed Street Legal as the longest-running drama in Canada, and, in recent years, was acquired by several streaming platforms, including Netflix.



The story centers on Amy Fleming (Amber Marshall), who starts off as a timid teenager with a special connection to the animals on her grandfather Jack Bartlett’s (Shaun Johnston) land, and grows up to be a renowned horse trainer and emotional healer. When her mother Marion is killed, her estranged father Tim Fleming (Chris Potter) and her older, NYC-based sister Lou (Michelle Morgan) return to the ranch to lend a helping hand, but end up staying indefinitely. These are the four characters who have been around since the first season, but many others have joined them along the way, adding to the complex tapestry of heartwarming and distressing incidents and events.

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Heartland’s enduring success is undeniable; so, what are the essential ingredients that make up such an appealing formula?



Gorgeous Filming Locations

Heartland's filming blog photo
CBC

Heartland’s main visual strongsuit is its breathtaking scenery. With its prairies, mountains, and lakes, the Canadian province of Alberta provides an idyllic setting for scenes involving picnics, trail rides, cattle drives, rafting, romantic escapades, and solitary reflection. Principal outdoor photography specifically takes place in and around High River (referred to as Hudson on the show), a picturesque town that has been used in many movies and series, namely Superman III, Fargoand The Last of Us.

Related: 21 Great Movies Shot in Canada

A private cattle property in Millarville, another town in Alberta, substitutes for the family home, barn, and dude ranch, while the rodeos and races are shot at the Millarville Farmers’ Market and Race Track.

As for the indoor scenes, they are filmed in a studio in Calgary, and the bustling city also serves as a dynamic backdrop for urban sequences.

A Solid Multigenerational Cast with Constant Additions

Heartland's Jack and Amy
SEVEN24 Films
Dynamo Films

The show feels so authentic because some of the actors are used to country living and perform the most basic riding scenes themselves, while stunt doubles take over in dangerous sequences. The leading actress, Marshall, has been riding since the age of four, and now lives on an actual ranch in Calgary with her husband, dogs, chickens, and horses. Johnston grew up on a cattle ranch and is no stranger to the rural community vibe either. As for Alisha Newton, who plays Georgie, Lou’s adopted daughter, she is a professional show jumper.

Besides the four main characters, many others have been featured through the seasons, and they come from different ages and backgrounds to appeal to an eclectic audience. Caleb O’Dell (Kerry James) is an attractive circuit cowboy who becomes Tim’s partner at their rodeo school; Ty Borden, who was mistreated by his stepfather, is placed at the ranch as a hand, then marries Amy and becomes a vet; Luke Kashani (Lucian-River Chauhan) is a troubled foster teenager who finds solace at an equestrian center, under Amy’s mentorship; Lisa Stillman (Jessica Steen) is a renowned horse breeder and jet-setter who falls for Jack, the archetypal traditional senior with simple tastes; and Mallory Wells Anderson (Jessica Amlee) is the annoying but well-meaning daughter of a country singer who likes getting involved in other people’s business.

These are only a few examples of the compelling characters on the show.

Family and Nature in Idyllic Harmony

Amy and Lyndy in Heartland
SEVEN24 Films
Dynamo Films

“People say they have been inspired by the Heartland family dinners, with all the characters of all ages, gathered around the big dining room table to share their day, argue, resolve issues, make their opinion known… The thought that Heartland has brought families together makes me very, very happy.”

– Co-writer Heather Conkie to CBC

In this multigenerational cohabitation, it’s not easy for the family members to assert their individual views, needs, and desires, and they clash multiple times over the seasons; but they always manage to reconnect, whether on a horse ride, a fishing or camping trip, or around a hearty meal at home.

Animals are also considered family and cared for dearly, be it horses, dogs, or cattle. Activists would appreciate episodes denouncing animal cruelty, neglect, and mistreatment, whether at a zoo, a private ranch, or a competition.

Compassion towards both people and animals and a profound appreciation of nature are central to the show.

Relatable Psychological and Communal Issues

Gabriel Hogan as Peter, Baye McPherson as Katie, and Michelle Morgan as Lou in Heartland
SEVEN24 Films
Dynamo Films

“It is a tip of the cowboy hat to Heartland that its writers skillfully employ episodic storylines that perfectly nest underneath captivating umbrella arcs.”

Eclectic Pop

Heartland thoroughly explores a multitude of personal and social topics with minimal violence and no profanity, whether it be substance abuse, depression, extramarital affairs, challenging career moves, estranged parents, fostered children, grief, health scares, natural disasters, political campaigns, creative activities, fundraisers, or teenage angst. The characters are far from perfect and exhibit bouts of stubbornness, melancholy, jealousy, ambition, anger, or greed, and this is precisely what makes them so relatable and keeps the viewers so invested.

Exciting Equestrian Trips and Competitions

Jordan Burtchett as Quinn, Madison Cheeatow as Jade, Chris Potter as Tim, and Shaun Johnston as Jack in Heartlan
CBC

Heartland is, essentially, a modern-day Western show set in the Canadian prairie at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It is therefore only natural for many episodes to feature dreamy overnight trail rides, challenging cattle drives, thrilling bronc, roping, and bull riding rodeos, jumping competitions, barrel races, and even graceful liberty acts.

Related: The Best All-Time Movies about Horses, Ranked

Unlike traditional Westerns, though, the show puts female talent forward in an otherwise macho field, not to mention that the lead character herself is nicknamed “Miracle Girl” for her extraordinary horse-whispering ability.

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