Created by writers Paul Abbott (State of Play, Shameless) and Frank Cottrell Boyce (Millions), the 1996-97 British series, Springhill (Sky One/Channel 4), centers on the drama surrounding the Freeman family as they come under assault by the deliciously evil Eva Morrigan, a enigmatic figure from Freeman parents Jack and Liz’s past who harbors a malicious vendetta against the couple. Presented in a pseudo-soap opera format, the series weaves a bit of the old supernatural into the drama as ghosts and mental/telepathic projections play a minor part in the narrative of Series One (although I understand the writers take the supernatural element further in Series Two). And dusting off the skeletons in the Freemans’ closet is made more exciting still given the series’ propensity to indulge freely in taboo topics, including (to name but one that’s relatively light on spoilers) incest.
And boy is this ever one seriously addictive series! The Freeman family’s secrets are doled out so sparingly over the course of Series One’s 26 episodes, and at such regular intervals, that you’re always left wanting more, no matter how much has been cumulatively revealed about the past interactions between Liz, Jack and Eva, not to mention the local Catholic priest, Father McGinley. In part, this stems from the fact that each question the writers answer inevitably raises another half dozen or more others, making us ever-increasingly more curious about what each revelation means for and about the family and, moreover, how Eva plans to use each revelation to her advantage. Thus, tensions mount and the suspense becomes nearly unbearable as Eva’s plans for Jack, Liz and their five children become more and more apparent. And when episode 26 comes to its close, oh how you’ll want to push right on through to Series Two.
Unfortunately, if you’re viewing the series in its June 18, 2013 DVD release from Acorn Media, as I did, you’ll have to wait to marathon the rest of it until Acorn releases Series Two, which will hopefully be very, very soon! Still, be forewarned that the return to the main menu after episode 26, marking the end of the set, will be absolutely crushing, especially since there are no special features with which to tide yourself over until the next release! But I suppose you could just start Series One all over again, a prospect that’s sounding to me like more of a reasonable course of action than simply waiting for Series Two the more I think about it.
One final thing worth mentioning here is the inherent appeal of the series given its terrific writing staff. If you’re a fan of Abbott’s work on State of Play and Shameless, or merely a fan of Coronation Street, Emmerdale, or even Doctor Who or Queer as Folk, this is a series you’re apt to want to pick up regardless of whether or not the idea of a supernatural soap opera appeals to you outright. After all, much of the series’ stable of writers followed Abbott from Coronation Street (a wealth of whom also worked on Emmerdale). Also among them is none other than Russell T. Davies, creator of Queer as Folk and the man behind the reboot of Doctor Who. What’s more, writers Paul Cornell and Gareth Roberts, who also penned some episodes of New Who, join the writing staff for Series Two, as I understand it. Unfortunately, while I distinctly recall that Davies wrote at least three episodes in Springhill: Series One, I’m afraid I can’t tell you precisely which episodes they were. I found that, when I at last sat down to write this review, details about the series online are few and far between. Had I had any inkling that a list of episodes with corresponding writers would have been nowhere to be found, not even on IMdB, I would have kept better track of such material in my notes. Whilst I may indeed compile such a list if I work my way back through Series One prior to the release of Series Two, let this be a challenge to anyone who reads this to improve upon the series’ dreadfully lacking IMdB and Wikipedia pages for the betterment of the world.