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The Advocate

Christy: The Complete Series

19 episodes, 4 disc DVD set

Reviewed by C.J. Darlington

"Those seeking excellent family entertainment will find 907 enjoyable minutes of it on this 4-disc set."

It was an interesting choice to transform the novel Christy into a tv series. With the expectation of millions running high, Christy made its debut in April 1994. Unlike a movie, the characters would have to take on lives of their own apart from the book (think Little House on the Prairie), which could potentially alienate its most receptive viewers---the readers of the novel.

If the producers had concerns about the public’s reception, they need not have worried. The show was an instant success with the public, but unfortunately suffered in the ratings (due to poor time scheduling according to some sources) and only lasted two seasons. What success the show did have can greatly be attributed to its star, Kellie Martin, known for her work in Life Goes On, ER and now the Hallmark Channel’s popular Mystery Woman. Martin, eighteen at the time, skillfully pulled off Christy’s innocence and spunk to such a degree that she became Christy in many viewers' minds.

Only my father saw me to the Asheville station that Sunday morning in 1912.

When Catherine Marshall penned the first line of Christy some forty years ago, she couldn’t possibly have known that an estimated 30 million people would read it. Christy was in Marshall’s words “a story I have always wanted to write.” Based on the real-life experiences of her mother and nine years in the writing, the novel was originally published by McGraw Hill in 1967. With more than 10 million copies in print, Christy is considered a landmark title in Christian publishing, but especially in Christian fiction. In a time when this genre was almost nonexistent except for the occasional Biblical epic, Christy tells the story of nineteen-year-old Christy Huddleston who travels to backwoods Cutter Gap, Tennessee to teach children in a mission school. Naive and inexperienced, her trials and triumphs fill nearly 500 engaging pages. Regrettably, Marshall (who died in 1983) never lived to see her novel come to life on the small screen.

Supporting cast members include notables such as Tyne Daly (Judging Amy, Cagney & Lacey) who played Alice Henderson, a devote Quaker and Christy’s mentor. Daly won an Emmy in 1996 for the role. We quickly grow to love her portrayal of Alice, but this is where the show strayed from Marshall’s original depiction of a kinder, gentler lady. The novel described her thus in postman Ben Pentland’s words, “She’s a smiley woman. All her wrinkles are smile-wrinkles. Has a heap o’ hair, light hair, leetle grey in it now. Wears her hair in braids that she folds round and round her head, like---like a crown.” Stewart Finlay-McLennan (The Last Sin Eater, National Treasure) as Dr. Neil McNeil was always a fan favorite, as was Emily Schulman’s Ruby Mae Morrison, who offered some lightness and humor to the show.

Later episodes brought characters to life who had died in the novel before Christy ever arrived in Cutter Gap (Alice’s daughter Margaret) or who died during the story (Tom McHone). Some even showed up who never existed in the book. Levar Burton’s Daniel Scott seemed the most out of place of these. Like Michael Landon occasionally did with Little House on the Prairie, it seemed the writers were trying too hard with Burton’s character to infuse modern themes into a historical setting. Then again, you can’t beat the success of Little House, so maybe they were on the right track after all. Watch Christy as a tv show rather than a book adaptation and you’ll be just fine.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Christy is the way it upholds morals and spirituality. Not only are the heroine’s physical adventures chronicled, but moral lessons are woven through the storylines as well. Those seeking excellent family entertainment will find 907 enjoyable minutes of it on this 4-disc set. It’s a wonder why all 19 episodes are only now making it to DVD.

C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.