The Larkins, episode 1 review: a charming escape into HE Bates's bucolic fantasy

Morgana Robinson and Julian Rhind-Tutt join the cast - ITV
Morgana Robinson and Julian Rhind-Tutt join the cast - ITV

Is it too presumptuous to think that the makers of The Larkins (ITV) have taken criticism of the last series on board? ITV seemed oddly preoccupied with turning HE Bates’s bucolic fantasy into a sunny advert for racial diversity and sexual equality, never mind the fact this was a village in 1950s Kent.

But so far there is little sign of that in the second series. Instead, the show is playing to its strengths: broad comedy and sweet romance. It also serves as a nice hour of escapism – imagine yourself in a world where you can afford to have a table full of food, and where it never seems to fall below cardigan-wearing weather so there’s no need to worry about heating bills.

Pop and Ma Larkin (Bradley Walsh and Joanna Scanlan) now have some nightmare neighbours: Julian Rhind-Tutt and Morgana Robinson play the Jerebohms, a pair of toffs who buy crumbling Bluff Court from Pop. They are cartoonish villains – Pinky Jerebohm dresses in the colour palette of Penelope Pitstop – and Rhind-Tutt and Robinson have great fun playing them as crashing snobs.

“In our experience, it isn’t how clever or hard-working you are, it’s who you know,” Mr Jerebohm says, explaining his disregard for good school results. “Isn’t that wrong?” asks a bemused local. “No, we like it as a system,” says Pinky. The Jerebohms are sticking around for the series, which is good news.

As yet, there is no Mariette, who was last seen being played by Sabrina Bartlett and heading off to Paris with her fiancé. The character will return with a new actress, Joelle Rae, in the role (it was reported that Bartlett left due to a “disagreement” on set, though her agent cited scheduling clashes).

In the meantime, the focus is on the romantic adventures of 18-year-old Primrose Larkin (Lydia Page), who is considering a university education but is distracted by the arrival of handsome Rev Candy, who in turn is distracted by being forced to move in with Peter Davison’s shambles of a vicar. As ever, Pop and Ma are weirdly over-interested in their daughters’ love lives.