PROVO — Spring has sprung and BYUtv has a fresh new program on the air this season with the U.S. premiere of the BBC’s “Hetty Feather.” Set in Victorian-era London, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts-nominated TV series tells the story of Hetty Feather, a spunky young orphan girl raised in the Foundling Hospital in England in 1887. Based on the books by Jacqueline Wilson, the series originally debuted on the CBBC — the children’s television channel owned by the BBC — before BYUtv acquired it.
Watch the trailer below:
“I’m just thrilled about 'Hetty Feather,'” said BYU Broadcasting Managing Director Michael Dunn. “The simplest way to describe this is the kid’s version of ‘Downton Abbey’ … and we feel so fortunate to have the U.S. premiere because it really is one of those quality shows done by the CBBC, and I think BYUtv viewers are going to love it.”
Although the show was originally made for younger audiences, Dunn stated that the program is one the entire family can enjoy watching together.
“Kids will love it because of the adventures and the fun,” he said. “And parents will like it … knowing they can trust it and that a high-values message is being delivered and they have something to talk about with their kids.”
Additionally, Hetty Feather’s vibrant personality and sense of adventure brings a good dose of comedy to the plot, said Dunn, who watched all the episodes in a single night before deciding he wanted to acquire it.
“She helps all these kids navigate what would otherwise be a very gloomy, very unfortunate existence,” he said. “She reminds me in a funny way of Pippi Longstocking not only for her red hair, but her irrepressible zest for life, and … always being really, really optimistic.”
The show should also appeal to fans of classics like “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte or “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery, he said, which are based in a similar time period.
“There is something so ennobling from watching programming like this,” he said. “There’s a certain pacing and civility and orderliness the way that they go about life that I think it has great value … for modern viewers, especially younger viewers.”
In October 2017, Dunn announced that BYU Broadcasting would be cutting Classical 89 KBYU-FM in favor for a more “symmetrical” and “streamlined” approach between radio and TV, with a focus on promoting entertaining and family friendly content on BYUtv.
“The first time (“Hetty Feather”) is being shown in America is not on PBS or on Nickelodeon or Disney, it’s going to be shown nationwide on BYUtv,” said Dunn. “That makes me really happy, and it speaks to the trust that our (acquisition) partners like Gaumont (Film Company) have (in us), and I think it’s a precursor of other great things that are going to happen in the future.”
Dunn also added that he hopes “Hetty Feather” is just the beginning of acquisitions from other well-known companies such as Warner Brothers, Fox or Disney.
“We’re really wide open,” said Dunn. “When we go to some of the major film and television markets, we’re getting a lot of respect from a lot of these distributors and syndicators now, because they know that we’re committed to showing this kind of program.”
This season, BYUtv will also air “Splat-a-Lot,” a medieval-themed game show starring “Studio C” hosts Stacey Harkey and Tori Pence and “Painting the Town with Eric Dowdle.”