The first time I watched Virgin River, pre-pandemic, I only got through one episode before deciding it wasn’t for me. It was too slow, too predictable, I thought. At some point during the pandemic lockdown, when everyone was looking for shows to binge at home, I decided to revisit this gorgeously set, sudsy, Hallmark-y show. This time, the gentle pacing, snug setting, and winsome characters exactly suited my mood. I needed cozy, comforting, and warm, and Virgin River delivered.
Melinda Monroe (Alexandra Breckinridge, Sophie from This is Us), a nurse practitioner who used to work at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, arrives in Virgin River, a small, woodsy town in Northern California (the exteriors are filmed on an island in the city of Vancouver, B.C.). The scenery itself is a character. You’ll find yourself swooning at the glacial lakes, babbling mountain brooks, and majestic mountain vistas. Naturally, Mel is escaping the big city because of heartache, and she now finds herself as a fish out of water in a much more relaxed, community-oriented setting. She promptly falls for handsome, scruffy bar owner Jack (Martin Henderson), and he for her, but the two have many obstacles to overcome, including his PTSD from serving in the Middle East as a soldier. The series is based on Robin Carr’s 20-book series, so this couple is pulled apart and brought back together in myriad ways. After the first episode, the plotting definitely picks up and is actually a strong point of the show. If Carr kept readers hooked for 20 page-turning books, you know there’s more than enough in the series to fuel some serious binging.
As far as content, it is a little spicier than your average Hallmark show. Characters do end up in the bed together, but these scenes are not graphic, hence the show’s rather mild TV-14 rating. There is also some violence and language, but nothing too jarring.
Though God is rarely mentioned, the way the community bands together and supports its own with kindness, and even sacrificial love, reminds me of the way the body of Christ is designed to operate—interdependent, communal, and forgiving. I have a sweatshirt that says, “I was meant to live in Stars Hollow,” which is the community in Gilmore Girls, another example of “Warm Bath TV.” I wouldn’t be surprised if there were similar shirts with Virgin River on them. The communities in these two shows are warm, inviting, and have so many town bonding events that it's hard to imagine anyone being lonely. (I would totally wear a flannel shirt and try some axe throwing at Virgin River’s Founder’s Day if it meant nibbling on one of Connie’s famous pies.) Virgin River is fictional and idealized, but I am still inspired to bring its ideals of what a community should be to my own real life setting. (Netflix)