Hope Springs is a comedy drama concerning four female ex-cons on the run with £3 million, whose plans for a sun-drenched retirement in Barbados go awry and they end up in the far north of Scotland instead, where they buy a dilapidated hotel. Episode one had its work cut out, contriving to get our feisty foursome into the hotel business, as well as introducing various locals with hidden agendas, dark secrets, lovable eccentricities and romantic yearnings. Not to forget the hit man on their trail, out for vengeance and return of the £3 million.
And just when you thought the sleepy village of Hope Springs couldn't get any busier, we were informed of a recent unsolved murder in the village. All of which asks for a superhuman suspension of disbelief from the viewer, which I wasn't prepared to give. Hope Springs is a cluttered mess and a daft one at that. Nice scenery, though, as you would expect from a Sunday evening drama. And Alex Kingston was rather good as the gang's leader.Harry Venning, The Stage, 15th June 2009
Oh, ladies - the expression is 'money to burn', not 'burn the money'. If rich people burned their cash, how would they still be rich? Now totally skint thanks to a fire that turned their loot into cinders, the gang of ex-cons in this light comic drama hatch a couple of cunning plans to fund their dream flight to Barbados - either rob the bookies or rob Margaret Meldrew...What's On TV, 14th June 2009
The four female ex-cons are still hiding in the pretty Scottish village of Hope Springs, although, after the disastrous fire at the hotel, it looks like they'll have to change their escape plans. Frankly, they're such a witless quartet I'm surprised any of them is capable of walking down a flight of stairs without doing something silly and girly. In fact, a nasty part of me hopes Ellie's evil husband's hitman gets to Scotland quickly to finish off the lot of them. There are another six episodes to go, so this would seem unlikely.Alison Graham, Radio Times, 14th June 2009
Hope Springs has a terribly contorted title, particularly as it's supposed to be a made-up place in the Highlands, where neither hope nor springs are likely. This is a vehicle for Alex Kingston, a talented and powerful actor whom you probably remember from ER. It's the story of a gang of former con women on the run with the loot. It's written by three women whose names skimmed past the credits before I could write them down, but I suspect they haven't written for television before. Now, if I'm wrong, I apologise; I just wonder that anyone employed them to do it twice. This is a grand pastiche of a dozen hoary, ancient, cliched stories. There's a lot of Ealing here, a bit of Whisky Galore, Thelma and Louise, The Ladykillers, some of Monarch of the Glen, a splash of Hamish Macbeth, and on and on. The characters are barely drawn at all; only Kingston stands out as having been written with anything more substantial than lipstick on the mirror.
What stops all the laughter escaping your mouth is that you know what's going to happen before the writers do. Every clunky old plot twist and McGuffin and red herring turns up like clockwork, as predestined as Evensong. Didn't anyone older than 15 bother to read this before they made it, and say, hang about, perhaps the comfort of the old and familiar is not what all our viewers want?
Perhaps we could do something to surprise them. Why don't we make one of the girls a vampire or a transvestite? Why don't we make it funny? Even poor old Scotland is dragged through all its ancient, peaty whimsy, 100 years of patronage and stereotyping.AA Gill, The Times, 14th June 2009
The world's gone mad. Here we have ITV adapting a John O'Farrell novel, which on paper at least would seem to be a very BBC sort of project, while the Beeb are busy giving us Hope Springs, a new Sunday night comedy-drama hybrid thingy from those smashing folk at Shed Productions, home of quintessentially old-school ITV telly such as Bad Girls and Footie Wives.
Of course, the fact that Hope Springs is silly beyond belief shouldn't matter a jot - indeed in these capable hands I'd consider it an asset - but enjoyment of the story of four female ex-cons whose final heist goes so wrong (a stolen diamond necklace is never going to be a girl's best friend) that instead of boarding a plane to Barbados with a few million quid, they end up on the lam in a small Highland village (which may or may not be adjacent to Monarch of the Glen's Glenbogle but apparently shares its inhabitants) is seriously hampered by further casting dementia in the form of another yeasty spread of an actress, Alex Kingston.Kathryn Flett, The Observer, 14th June 2009
Hope springs eternal whenever I get set for a new British drama. I don't demand too much: believable characters; some wit; a mood-enhancing soundtrack; a story that makes some kind of sense; performances that hint the actors haven't just learnt their lines in the nearest portable loo. Suffice to say, Hope Springs fails on all counts.
Bad Girls meets Hustle on the backlot of Take The High Road, Hope Springs stars Alex Kingston as the leader of a group of four ex-jailbirds who have unfeasibly scammed a cool £3million from Alex's too-timing gangster bloke. For reasons too absurdly contrived to bother with, they wind up hiding out in the Scottish Highlands at a hotel where Annette Crosbie spends every waking moment getting plastered. You can see where she's coming from.
Don't be too shocked, but their hideout is not the rural idyll it looks. Far from passing their time tossing shortbread and knitting haggie, the Hope Springs locals spend their time murdering, plotting, covering up dark secrets and eyeing up the new girls in town. It's the kind of material David Lynch could turn into a surreal and alluring mystery. But Hope Springs reduced it to Carry On Up The Caber cliche.
The unbearably jaunty background music set the tone. When the action needed a touch of tension, what you got was what sounded like a jingle for a snack biscuit. And what Paul Higgins (brilliant as Jamie in The Thick Of It) was doing in it as a drippy policeman is anybody's guess. You can only hope for his sake that he gets to cuddle up to the corpse beneath the floorboards before this shambles kills his career stone dead.Keith Watson, Metro, 8th June 2009
Hope Springs might be the obvious title for a drama set in a small village of the same name, a drama which, I'm guessing, will demonstrate that, even if £3m of your money goes up in smoke marooning you and your friends in a Scottish backwater, life will eventually compensate you with less material rewards. But it's also a hostage to fortune and, it turns out, a really bad title for a drama as clunky as this. Hope is very poorly, you think, as it begins to dawn on you how far-fetched and laborious the set-up is. And by the time the final credits roll, the undertaker is erecting the headstone on hope's grave.
It might be argued that my hopes were unreasonably high anyway. Ann McManus, Maureen Chadwick and Liz Lake's drama comes from Shed Productions, the company that produced Bad Girls and Footballers' Wives. So, obviously, this account of four female ex-cons, accidentally diverted from a prosperous retirement in Barbados, was never intended to be another Brideshead Revisited. It's there as an end-of-the-weekend wind-down, the only problem being that it's never quite tongue-in-cheek or over-the-top enough to make you forgive its shortcomings.
Even its virtues - such as the reassuringly unprettified surroundings they find themselves in, all electricity pylons and radar domes rather than postcard Scottish glens - only makes things worse. You've got the setting for something that might be mordantly funny (like the first series of Shameless, say), but the plot and psychological depth of a children's comic.
The essential plot is this. Having scammed £3m out of her crooked boyfriend, Ellie plans to leg it to the sun with three friends. Unfortunately, the woman delivering their passports expired on the luggage carousel, leaving them with no option but to hop a train to Fort William and find somewhere to lay low, while Ellie's vengeful boyfriend searches for them. Then, for a reason that I still haven't worked out, Ellie decided to buy the local hotel, somehow convinced that this will make a better cover story when they apply for new passports. She didn't seem to have noted that paying for a hotel with a stack of crisp new £50 notes might arouse suspicion, even in the sleepiest Scottish village.
But then that hardly matters since nothing else makes sense here, not even the acting, which, with the exception of a nicely deadpan sheep, was coarse enough to grate carrots on. "What the hell have we got ourselves into?" wailed Ellie - after an arson attack by the local thug incinerates all their loot - and it's hard not to read the line as a cry of pain from Alex Kingston the actress, rather than the character she's playing.Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 8th June 2009
Alex Kingston heads up a gang of feisty females in this new comedy drama. Worry not, Heartbeat fans - your favourite Sunday evening drama may be strolling casually to an end, but this quirky offering may sate your appetite for colourful characters in rural locations. Having run off with her gangster hubby's cash, Alex 'ER' Kingston and three glam pals lie low by taking over a hotel in a remote Scottish village owned by Margaret Meldrew. Brilliant fun!What's On TV, 7th June 2009
It takes a certain type of programme to tick all the right boxes when it comes to Sunday evening telly. Escapism is essential, as is plenty of pretty scenery and a good selection of likeable characters, but you also need a central storyline with at least a little substance.