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TV review: 'Durrells in Corfu' is PBS charmer

"Durrells in Corfu," 7 p.m. Sundays on PBS' "Masterpiece" beginning tonight (Oct. 16)

Three stars (out of four)

If you've read Gerald Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals" (and if not, you should), you're already familiar with the story of how his hard-pressed, widowed mother moved him and his zany siblings to Greece from England in the 1930s.

Beginning tonight (Sunday, Oct. 16), PBS' "Masterpiece" brings them to television in the delightful "Durrells in Corfu."

As the story opens, Louisa Durrell (Keeley Hawes) is struggling with four difficult children and a lack of money. Impulsively, her eldest son, Larry (Josh O'Connor), suggests that they pack up and move to Corfu. At the end of her rope, Louisa agrees.

Also on board are Leslie (Callum Woodhouse), the second son, and Margo (Daisy Waterstone), the only daughter. The youngest is Gerry (Milo Parker), who is 11 and wild about all kinds of wildlife.

Gerry is Gerald Durrell himself, and he recalled this quirky, nearly idyllic part of his childhood in three 1950s books beginning with "My Family and Other Animals." The trilogy has been adapted for "Durrells in Corfu," which will run Sundays through Nov. 20.

(Durrell went on to become a world-famous animal collector and conservationist, but he wasn't even the most accomplished member of his family; Larry, the budding writer, grew up to be novelist Lawrence Durrell. The name, by the way, is pronounced DURR-el, readers may be surprised to learn.)

Corfu is gorgeous, but the Durrells have almost nothing. The boys are determined that their mother needs a man; teenage Margo is ready for a beau herself. Oddball Greeks help the family and provide local color.

There's little drama, except some family crises, in "Durrells in Corfu," and who would complain about that? This sunny and touching yarn feels like just what we need in these angst-ridden days.  

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Gail Pennington is the television critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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