Understanding the comparatively unsexy attract of Netflix’s “Virgin River” comes down to at least one factor


It did not occur with the kind of overwhelming worth-of-mouth social media push that has propelled some of Netflix’s most popular series to the highest of the streaming mountain, however the heartwarming, small city drama “Virgin River,” which just released its third season on July 9, has emerged as one of many streaming service’s most beloved and dependable performers since debuting in December 2019. 

Primarily based on a long-running sequence of romance novels by writer Robyn Carr and developed for TV by showrunner and govt producer Sue Tenney, the drama stars Alexandra Breckenridge as Melinda “Mel” Monroe, a nurse practitioner and midwife from Los Angeles who strikes to the distant Northern California city after a sequence of traumatic heartbreaks has left her misplaced and searching for an opportunity to begin over. Whereas the small cabin she was promised by the city mayor (Annette O’Toole) is in nice want of restore and the growing older city physician (Tim Matheson) she was employed to help would quite she disappear, Mel in the end decides to remain on the town some time after a new child is left on the clinic’s doorstep. Nicely, that and there is an apparent spark with Jack Sheridan (Martin Henderson), a former Marine dwelling with PTSD and the proprietor of the one bar and restaurant on the town.

With the correct amount of romance, cleaning soap and small city attraction, “Virgin River” is the kind of present that screams consolation viewing and is thus interesting to a lot of viewers. It has been particularly useful in quelling real-world anxieties throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However the notion of the present, which is never talked about with any depth within the media, is that it isn’t very thrilling. In spite of everything, it isn’t a prestige drama like “The Crown.” It isn’t an awards contender like “Ozark” or “The Queen’s Gambit.” It would not even have the overt sexiness of a sequence like “Bridgerton.” So why, then, are viewers flocking to it en masse

It may not be apparent to the informal subscriber, however Netflix has made a concentrated push into the romance style over the previous few years, with licensed K-dramas and diversifications of fashionable romance ebook sequence like “Virgin River,” “Candy Magnolias” and the aforementioned “Bridgerton,” which simply acquired 12 Emmy nominations, main the best way. With few tv choices for love followers, this seemingly small effort has allowed Netflix to faucet right into a beforehand underserved viewers and see most positive factors consequently. It is also half of a bigger endeavor by the streaming service to supply programming that’s created by and for ladies (see additionally: “Firefly Lane” and romantic comedies like “Set It Up”). 

Girls, however particularly girls over 30, are an essential demographic and one whose pursuits have often been ignored or thought of inferior regardless of the very fact girls total make up greater than half of the U.S. inhabitants. A basic lack of programming made particularly for ladies could possibly be the results of the truth that males continue to hold the majority of senior positions within the media and leisure industries, with girls filling simply 27% of the highest roles. Netflix reported in January that women make up nearly half of its workforce (47.1%), together with 47.6% of its senior management workforce. Whether or not or not there’s a direct correlation between these employment statistics and the variety of packages made for ladies in recent times requires deeper investigation than this story permits, nevertheless it does appear apparent that Netflix has, on the very least, found out that leisure made for ladies is financially sensible along with filling a cultural void.

Additionally working in its favor is the truth that “Virgin River” primarily stars girls over 35, with most of the present’s supporting solid members being girls who’re at or over the age of 60. It is one of many few packages that refuses to play by the traditional, misguided guidelines of Hollywood, which have a tendency to say {that a} girl is washed up by the age of 30 however males within the 60s can nonetheless be main males. Geena Davis has been working for nearly two decades to bring equality to the industry because of this, and seeing so many roles for “girls of a sure age” is a breath of recent air for a lot of viewers. Their tales are simply the largest draw of the present, and in case you want additional proof that Mel and the older girls are the celebs, the one storyline involving youngsters is the present’s weakest and sometimes appears like nothing greater than a half-hearted try and additionally entice youthful audiences. 

However merely being content material for ladies and providing higher illustration aren’t the one causes “Virgin River” and sequence prefer it have discovered success. There’s an apparent Netflix issue at play as properly. In spite of everything, fundamental cable networks like Hallmark and Lifetime have been producing content material for ladies for years and have not seen the identical mainstream degree of success. Whereas the previous had the No. 2 scripted series on cable in 2019 and each managed to interrupt by way of to the plenty by way of vacation programming — Hallmark was really cable’s most-watched entertainment network in primetime and whole day scores throughout its Christmas programming block final 12 months — a stigma nonetheless persists. It isn’t in contrast to how romance novels continues to be mocked as being the responsible pleasure of sexy housewives quite than a booming and worthwhile trade (and in lots of circumstances, a form of resistance). 

However even when Hallmark has managed to flee the worst of the scores woes which have befallen a lot of fundamental cable by providing heartfelt programming with low stakes that audiences of all ages can watch and luxuriate in, TV exhibits and films airing on area of interest cable networks nonetheless undergo compared to these being available on a streaming service like Netflix that has 208 million global subscribers. It is because it is simple to push these cable packages apart and ignore them — particularly now that extra persons are slicing the wire — which solely additional alienates them. So whereas romances and soapy dramas have been and nonetheless can be found elsewhere, it is potential — and even possible — that being made for and being obtainable on Netflix has helped to not solely put extra eyes on a majority of these sequence and strengthen the inspiration of those genres however probably even legitimize them extra within the eyes of viewers after years of being maligned. (The truth that Shonda Rhimes is an govt producer on “Bridgerton” additionally definitely helps.)

If these have been the one issues “Virgin River” had going for it, they’d be greater than sufficient to attract viewers. However there may be another reason the present continues to attraction to so many, and it is as a result of it places points that girls face within the highlight. Throughout the present’s first season it was revealed that Mel had misplaced a baby previous to her husband’s (Daniel Gillies) tragic loss of life in a automotive accident. The infant was stillborn, and Mel and her husband struggled with infertility within the years that adopted, going by way of a number of rounds of in vitro fertilization however by no means once more turning into pregnant. Mel’s grief, particularly with reference to motherhood, was a serious throughline of the primary two seasons. The sequence once more returned to the subject in Season 3 when Mel selected to bear one other spherical of IVF on her personal after she and Jack broke up as a result of he was hesitant to have one other baby when he already had twins on the best way with another person (Lauren Hammersley’s Charmaine). 

In line with the CDC, approximately 12 % of women in the U.S. ages 15 to 44 have problem turning into pregnant or carrying a being pregnant to time period. Inside the previous few years many ladies have taken their struggles with infertility public in an effort to improve consciousness of those points. Excessive-profile celebrities like Meghan Markle and Chrissy Teigen have each shared their private miscarriage experiences not too long ago within the hopes that girls all over the place will really feel much less alone and be extra snug speaking about one thing that impacts thousands and thousands of individuals. The truth that “Virgin River” tackles this little-talked about however related matter and the best way it has affected its heroine is a strong step in bringing much more consciousness to it.

Mel’s wrestle with infertility shouldn’t be the one essential matter that the present has tackled since its debut although. “Virgin River” has additionally lined home violence in a storyline involving Paige (Lexa Doig) fleeing her abusive husband, geriatric pregnancies and postpartum melancholy after Lilly (Lynda Boyd) gave delivery in Season 1 and sexual assault after Jack’s sister, Brie (Zibby Allen), suffered a miscarriage in Season 3 after being raped by her then-boyfriend. These are all matters that sadly have an effect on girls, and whereas “Virgin River” is much from the one present to sort out a majority of these tales, they’re most frequently relegated to the sidelines or added for melodrama.

Even when “Virgin River” offers closely in cleaning soap at instances — there are drug sellers exterior of city and the primary narrative thread of Season 3 rests on who shot Jack on the finish of Season 2 — it all the time returns to the very actual, very trustworthy points affecting girls in the present day. And whereas girls are hungry for comforting slice-of-life dramas filled with romance, in addition they simply wish to see programming that’s made for them by girls like them. They wish to see their tales depicted on TV. And “Virgin River” is doing all of these issues with no indicators of slowing down. You would possibly scoff, however “Virgin River” is a bona fide success, and Netflix is sitting on a goldmine.

“Virgin River” Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.

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