‘Sweet Magnolias’

Ben Miles

Premised on the novels by author Sherryl Woods, “Sweet Magnolias” is now a Netflix series inspired by the romantic and dramatic sensibilities ensconced in the eleven book series that comprise Woods’ various volumes with focus on the joys and tribulations of three lifetime friends — Maddie, Dana Sue and Helen — who reside in the small (fictional) South Carolina township of Serenity.

With a credible cast — Joanna Garcia Swisher, Brooke Elliott and Heather Headley, as the lead trio of Maddie, Dana Sue and Helen — the series, developed and well-realized by Sherlyn J. Anderson, has a wide focus that includes infidelity, teen rebellion, gamesmanship, personal and career integrity and adjusting and readjusting to life’s unexpected ups and downs.

What most impresses this writer is the intense believability of the actors who portray the show’s teenagers. For instance, Carson Rowland’s portrayal of Ty, Maddie’s oldest child, out of three (who is a high school senior and star baseball pitcher) infuses his character with a swelling emotion that often is present in a simple glance of his eye or a perplexed facial expression.

There’s also Harlan Drum as CeCe who embodies the smart, seductive adolescent who puts her feelings for Ty on undeniable display. And these are only two examples of the extraordinary talent the ensemble of young performers bring to “Sweet Magnolias.”

Though there are ten episodes in season one of “Sweet Magnolias” and eleven books in the series of novels and season two is in production, with a premiere date soon to be announced, the trajectory of Woods’ novel storyline is bound to depart from its literary origins.

Nevertheless, with a charming cast — including soap opera veteran Justin Bruening as Cal the football coach; Chris Klein as Bill, Maddie’s ex-husband and a family physician practicing in Serenity; and Jamie Lynn Spears as Bill’s medical assistant, whom he has impregnated — “Sweet Magnolias”is an involving multigenerational love story.

With enchanting cinematography by Brian Johnson, which captures the beautiful southern countryside, a mood-setting musical score by James Jandrisch, and with often cliff hanging direction by the likes of Norman Buckley, Keli Williams and Laura Nesbit Peters, “Sweet Magnolias” is binge-worthy.

“Sweet Magnolias” is currently streaming on Netflix.

ben @beachcomber.news


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