Heartland: A Family Friendly Show

Amy is one of the lead characters on “Heartland.” She plays a horse trainer who uses the natural horsemanship skills she learned from her mother. Photo credit: Andrew Bako.

I have been known to complain there is nothing good on TV anymore. I rarely get hooked on a new show and am not ashamed to admit I still watch some of the same shows I watched in high school – “Gilmore Girls,” “Charmed,” “Friends,” “Supernatural” reruns (I only like the earlier seasons.).

There are a few exceptions, though. Besides “Once Upon a Time” (I love anything about fairytales), one of my favorite TV shows is “Heartland,” a Canadian family drama that premieres its 10th season on Oct. 2. 

For those who don’t know, “Heartland” follows the highs and lows of a family living on a horse ranch in Alberta, Canada. One of the main characters, Amy, is a horse trainer who uses natural horsemanship methods.

It is the longest-running one-hour scripted Canadian drama in history, and it continues to attract viewers from all around the world.

It’s rare for a show to remain that popular after so many years, so I had to ask myself what made it different because it’s definitely not just horse-crazy people watching the show.

As I scrolled down the many blogs and message boards related to “Heartland,” the same phrase recurred: “family show.”

I realized that I can sit down with my 5-year-old daughter and watch “Heartland” (which I sometimes do), or I can cuddle up with my husband, and he will enjoy it just as much.

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Amy and Ty are two of the main characters on Heartland, a Canadian drama about a family living on a horse ranch in Alberta. Amy and Ty are in a relationship throughout most of the series and get married at the end of season eight. Photo credit: Andrew Bako.

The main reason that the whole family can sit down and watch this show is because of the clean relationships, which is so rare to see on television nowadays. In most shows, relationships, even high school ones, are put on the fast track so that it seems normal for a teenage couple to have sex after only a few dates or move in with each other without a thought of ever getting married. This TV-show reality has also permeated into real life, unfortunately.

Not so on “Heartland.” The main couple on the show, Amy and Ty, form a relationship after the second season and are together for the majority of the show, finally getting married at the end of season eight (sorry if I’m giving away any spoilers). Throughout the entirety of the show, they are never shown making out, they never move in together, the topic of sex never comes up and they wait until their marriage night to finally be together (a scene the producers never found necessary to show). There is no assumption that because they have been dating for a while, they should have a sexual relationship or move in together to test the relationship before getting married. They love each other and respect each other.

This isn’t the first family-friendly drama to last a decade – “7th Heaven” lasted 11 seasons before it finally ended in 2007. It was originally supposed to end in 2006 but received such high ratings that it was renewed for the 11th season. This was yet another show that promoted abstinence and innocence in relationships, as well as demonstrated the normal problems families deal with on a daily basis.

Why are these shows so successful? Honestly, I think they are a breath of fresh air (literally, in the case of “Heartland,” since it takes place on a ranch) amid the many soap operas, dramas and “teeny bopper” shows that highlight the drama in relationships and promote casual sex.

In the case of “Heartland,” parents are just relieved they can sit down and watch a show with their children that everyone in the family likes without having to fast forward or change channels when things get too “intimate.”

I guess it just goes to show, sex doesn’t always sell.

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