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‘Heartland’ is family-friendly but not unbearably cheesy

Heartland is a family show without corruption or treachery, a cowboy show that focuses on women, and a western show set not in the United States but in Alberta, Canada.

It’s also Canada’s longest-running one-hour drama series and was renewed for its 16th season. It is available in the United States via Netflix and UPtv. It’s compellingly addictive television—comforting and homey, simple and true, peopled with handsome men in cowboy hats and competent women who can handle horses, cattle, and business.

Adapted from a series of 26 young adult novels by Lauren Brooke, Heartland tells the story of the Bartlett-Fleming family raising horses and cattle on the same land for generations. Its charm is the churning activity of great-grandpa, grandpa, parents, and children, all housed in one log ranch house.

Rodeo legend Jack Bartlett (Shaun Johnston) was raised on the 600-acre Heartland cattle ranch, which is now a haven for troubled horses. After his daughter, Marion (Lisa Langlois), is killed in the first episode while trying to rescue a horse, he raises his granddaughters, Amy (Amber Marshall), who has a special talent for helping recover abused and traumatized horses, and Lou (Michelle Morgan), who runs a dude ranch on Heartland.

The focus is teenage life on an isolated ranch, with some small-town drama tossed in. We don’t visit high school with the characters (thereby attracting an adult audience for the show), but we do sit around the kitchen table, solving the kinds of problems that seem especially urgent to 15- to 20-year-olds over homey dinners and family talks.


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