All Creatures Great and Small

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
All Creatures Great and Small TV Poster Image
Charming remake of vet's classic books is a pleasant watch.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Recurring examples of perseverance and compassion, both among humans and from humans to the animals in their charge. A young man sets foot into adulthood and his first career step with an open mind and a willingness to learn, which helps him gain maturity. 

Positive Role Models

James is eager to learn and to prove himself, which leads him to be impulsive now and then but also shows his self-confidence. Siegfried leads by example in the science of animal husbandry, but he often needs guidance from others on how to connect on a personal level. The residents of the community run the gamut of humanity and span the classes. 


No violence, but some of the scenes can be fairly graphic when they involve the care of animals. One shows a laboring cow in distress and James with his arm fully extended inside the birth canal trying to pull the calf during a contraction. In another, an abscess on a horse’s hoof is drained of pus.


Rarely "damn."


The series is inspired by James Herriot’s book series and a previous TV adaptation of the same name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Pub drinking is common, and several characters smoke pipes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that All Creatures Great and Small is based on the beloved autobiographical stories by British veterinarian James Herriot (which were previously adapted for TV in the late 1970s). They center on his experiences as a vet assistant in Yorkshire in the 1930s-'50s. Some scenes involve the fairly graphic reality of animal care -- including birth, illness, injury, and death -- as well as mention of matters like putting an animal down to prevent its suffering. The show reflects the time in which the story is set, with traditional gender roles (women tend to house matters while men are at work, for instance) and normalized smoking. James (Nicholas Ralph) is a likable fellow for his sunny outlook and unfailing self-confidence, and it's fun to celebrate his career and personal victories with him. There's a budding romantic relationship and rare use of language like "damn." This engaging series has themes of perseverance and could expand kids' awareness of how people lived and worked during Herriot's lifetime.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8, 12, and 13-year-old Written byNel Family February 17, 2021


A beautiful show in a beautiful setting. Entertaining and even slightly educational as people will learn about animals along the way. James is a great role mode... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 and 14-year-old Written byPamela W. February 2, 2021

This is a great family series

My 10-year old and 14 year old love this show. It was my favorite book as a child. I highly recommend it and only wish I could find more shows like this one.
Teen, 14 years old Written byCia2006 April 20, 2021

Good show, really relaxing.

This show is very relaxing. James is such a sweet person and how much he cares about animals. You see how much growth their is for every character. Their is the... Continue reading

What's the story?

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL opens as young veterinary school graduate James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) secures his first job as an assistant to curmudgeonly country vet Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West) in the Yorkshire Dales. As James gets acquainted with the locals and their animals, he learns there’s more to the craft than just delivering calves and tending to hoof problems; being a doctor to animals often means caring for the people who own them as well. With kindly Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) helping keep him on track, a new romantic interest in his life, and Siegfried's ne'er-do-well brother, Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), arriving to complicate matters, James settles into his new surroundings and sets his sights on a lengthy career.

Is it any good?

This take on Herriot’s autobiographical tales (an earlier adaptation premiered in 1978) is well written and acted, and its setting in the bucolic Yorkshire Dales just magnifies its charm. Ralph is instantly engaging as the wet-around-the-ears Herriot, who arrives there eager to prove himself but endearingly naive about life and all its ups and downs. He’s a true optimist, though, which he quickly discovers runs counter to his new boss’s sharper personality, but the two find a happy medium that allows them to work alongside each other without too much distress.

Set in mid-19th century rural England, All Creatures Great and Small reflects Herriot’s encounters with animals and their people, who run the gamut and span economic and educational classes of the time. It’s a cross-section example of one man’s life experiences, ever told with humor, compassion, and honesty. That honesty translates to realistic images of veterinary care and tense moments that accompany them, but also to heartfelt personal victories for the likable James Herriot.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the time and place setting of this series. In what ways are social norms different from they are in modern times? How are class differences represented? How do shows like this help us put history into context?

  • What hard-fought life lessons does James learn? How do they demonstrate his ability to persevere? What motivates him toward success? Why is the ability to recover from failure an important quality to have? 

  • Do you think the country vet scenes in this show are too graphic for its intended audience? Why or why not?

TV details

Our editors recommend

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