Road to Avonlea

Country: Canada

Language: English

Runtime: 91 episodes (7 series x 13 episodes) x 46–59 min.

Airdates: 7 January 1990–31 March 1996 (CBC), 5 March 1990–8 December 1996 (Disney Channel)

Production Companies: Sullivan Films Inc. (Story Girl Production Inc., Series 1; Golden Road Productions Inc., Series 2; Rose Cottage Productions Inc., Series 3; Red Cliff Motion Pictures Inc., Series 4), Sullivan Entertainment Inc. (Pink Beaches Productions Inc., Series 5; Shining Lake Productions Inc., Series 6; Long Road Home Productions Inc., Series 7), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Disney Channel

Funding Agencies: Telefilm Canada (Series 1–6), Ontario Film Investment Program (Series 5–7), Cable Production Fund (Series 7)

Source Material: Adapted from the novels The Story Girl, The Golden Road, Chronicles of Avonlea, and Further Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Alternate Titles: Avonlea (Disney Channel broadcast), Road to Avonlea: The Final Season (Series 7 CBC broadcast), Tales from Avonlea (Walt Disney Home Video), Les Contes d’Avonlea (French Canada)

Tag: A Kevin Sullivan Production

Road to Avonlea was a long-form television series produced by Sullivan Films (later Sullivan Entertainment), with the creative and financial involvement of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Disney Channel, and originally broadcast between 1990 and 1996. Consisting of seven seasons of thirteen episodes, the series became one of the most successful and long-running dramatic series in the history of Canadian television: during its seven-year run, the series achieved unprecedented and still-unsurpassed ratings for a Canadian dramatic series in English, reaching 2.6 million viewers during its first season and continuing to reach 1 million viewers for the duration of its ninety-one episodes, even for prime-time rebroadcasts. Developed by Fiona McHugh, who co-wrote the telefilm Lantern Hill (1990) with Kevin Sullivan, the series adapted unrelated Montgomery texts—her novels The Story Girl and The Golden Road, with additional material excerpted from her collections of short stories Chronicles of Avonlea and Further Chronicles of Avonlea—in order to create a conceptual and thematic spin-off of Sullivan Entertainment’s two miniseries Anne of Green Gables (1985) and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987).

While some of the characters and plots are drawn from Montgomery’s books, the narrative frame of the series is original. The series initially starred ten-year-old Sarah Polley as Sara Stanley, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy Montreal businessman who is placed under house arrest after being framed for embezzlement by his business partner. Wanting to shield his daughter from the scandal of a trial, he sends Sara to her late mother’s relatives, unknown to her, in the village of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. Like Anne Shirley before her, Sara arrives in the closed society of Avonlea as an outsider but uses her intuitiveness, her common sense, and her gumption to win over the friendship and acceptance of her extended family and the community at large. The regular cast also consisted of Jackie Burroughs as Sara’s authoritarian aunt, Hetty King; Mag Ruffman as her sympathetic younger aunt, Olivia King; Lally Cadeau and Cedric Smith as Janet King and Alec King, who live next door on King farm; and Gema Zamprogna and Zachary Bennett as their two eldest children, Felicity King and Felix King, who are initially resentful of Sara’s arrival but quickly become her closest friends and allies. As the series progressed, the extended cast increased to allow the series to become more of an ensemble show, easing the eventual resignation of Polley (after five seasons) and Zamprogna (after six seasons), although both continued to make infrequent appearances until the series’ end.

In Canada, the series aired as the cornerstone of the “CBC Family Hour” timeslot on Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 PM. The Disney Channel, which aired the series as Avonlea, pushed for a considerable number of guest stars known to American audiences in order to attract a large audience; for that reason, Ned Beatty, Robby Benson, Stockard Channing, Peter Coyote, Faye DunawayMadeline Kahn, Eugene Levy, Christopher LloydKate Nelligan, Christopher Reeve, Diana Rigg, Maureen Stapleton, Meg TillyDianne Wiest, Treat Williams, and Michael York all made guest appearances throughout the series, many of them nominated for or winning Emmy Awards for their work. Several actors from the two Anne of Green Gables miniseries also played recurring roles in the series: Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert, Patricia Hamilton as Rachel Lynde, and Marilyn Lightstone as Muriel Stacey. Rosemary Dunsmore, who played Katherine Brooke in Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, appeared in the series as Janet’s sister, Abigail Ward MacEwen. After Dewhurst’s death in August 1991, the producers decided to kill off Marilla Cuthbert in an episode that spliced in footage of Dewhurst in past Sullivan productions.

Also playing recurring roles in the series were Joel Blake (seasons 1–2) as Andrew King; Harmony Cramp (seasons 1–5) and Molly Atkinson (seasons 6–7) as Cecily King; Miklos Perlus (seasons 1–3) as Peter Craig; Susan Cox (seasons 1–3) as Peg Bowen; Kay Tremblay (seasons 2–7) as Great Aunt Eliza; Michael Mahonen (seasons 2–7) as Gus Pike; Kyle Labine (seasons 2–3, 5–7) as Davey Keith; Ashley Muscroft (seasons 2–3) and Lindsay Murrell (seasons 5–7) as Dora Keith; Barbara Hamilton (seasons 3–7) as Eulalie Bugle; Alex and Ryan Floyd (seasons 3–7) as Daniel King; Albert Millaire (seasons 3–7) as Pierre Lapierre; David Fox (seasons 4–7) as Clive Pettibone; Heather Brown (seasons 4–7) as Izzy Pettibone; Mark Bigney (season 4) as Morgan Pettibone; Zachary Ansley (seasons 4–7) as Arthur Pettibone; Ian D. Clark (seasons 4–7) as Simon Tremayne; and David Ferry (season 7) as Stuart McRae.

Kevin Sullivan and Trudy Grant served as executive producers throughout all seven seasons. The ninety-one episodes of the series were written by Robert Adetuyi, Leila Basen, Thérèse Beaupré, Heather Conkie, Suzette Couture, Rick Drew, Lori Fleming, Hart Hanson, Jim Henshaw, Jeremy Hole, Avrum Jacobson, Charles Lazer, Janet MacLean, Marlene Matthews, Jerome McCann, Fiona McHugh, Yan Moore, Deborah Nathan, Laurie Pearson, Raymond Storey, Patricia Watson, and Grahame Woods. They were directed by Dick Benner, George Bloomfield, Robert Boyd, René Bonnière, William Brayne, Graeme Campbell, Stacey Stewart Curtis, Allan Eastman, F. Harvey Frost, Stuart Gillard, Otta Hanus, Kit Hood, Allan King, Allan Kroeker, Eleanore Lindo, Graeme Lynch, Don McBrearty, Bruce Pittman, Stefan Scaini, Paul Shapiro, Gilbert Shilton, Stephen Surjik, and Charles Wilkinson.

The entire series has been released on DVD. Prior to these releases, numerous episodes, particularly early ones, were released on VHS. Between 1991 and 1995, HarperCollins Publishers (Canada) and Bantam-Skylark (USA) published twenty-nine Road to Avonlea novelizations based on selected episodes from the first three seasons, by Dennis Adair and Janet Rosenstock, Heather Conkie, Amy Jo Cooper, Gail Hamilton, Marlene Matthews, Fiona McHugh, and Linda Zwicker. Several characters and storylines also appeared in different form in Sullivan Entertainment’s Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series (2000–01) and in the animated feature film Anne: Journey to Green Gables (2005).

Over seven years, the series earned four Emmy Awards (out of sixteen nominations), five CableAce Awards (out of twenty-eight nominations), seventeen Gemini Awards (out of sixty-six nominations), and numerous other prizes and accolades. In 1999, Road to Avonlea neared the top of the all-time Ten Best Canadian TV Series entry in The Great Canadian Book of Lists, second only to the 1964–66 news program This Hour Has Seven Days (Kearney and Ray 24). A follow-up movie, Happy Christmas, Miss King (later rereleased as An Avonlea Christmas), followed in 1998.

Episodes

S7E13: So Dear to My Heart
S7E12: The Last Hurrah
S7E11: Return to Me
S7E10: After the Ball Is Over
S7E09: From Away
S7E08: Ah…Sweet Mystery of Life
S7E07: Total Eclipse
S7E06: King of the Great White Way
S7E05: Secrets and Sacrifices
S7E04: Woman of Importance
S7E03: Davey and the Mermaid
S7E02: Love May Be Blind…but the Neighbours Ain’t
S7E01: Out of the Ashes

S6E13: Homecoming
S6E12: A Time to Every Purpose
S6E11: What a Tangled Web We Weave
S6E10: Home Is Where the Heart Is
S6E09: The More Things Change
S6E08: Fools and Kings
S6E07: A Fox Tale
S6E06: Great Expectations
S6E05: The Trouble with Davey
S6E04: Comings and Goings
S6E03: Christmas in June
S6E02: Lonely Hearts
S6E01: The Return of Gus Pike

S5E13: The Minister’s Wife
S5E12: Enter Prince Charming
S5E11: Otherwise Engaged
S5E10: Best Laid Plans
S5E09: Thursday’s Child
S5E08: Strictly Melodrama
S5E07: Someone to Believe In
S5E06: The Great Race
S5E05: Stranger in the Night
S5E04: A Friend in Need
S5E03: Modern Times
S5E02: Memento Mori
S5E01: Fathers and Sons

S4E13: Hearth and Home
S4E12: Home Movie [Jasper’s Home Movie]
S4E11: The Disappearance
S4E10: Felicity’s Perfect Beau
S4E09: Hearts and Flowers
S4E08: Heirs and Graces
S4E07: The Dinner [Felicity’s Grand Design]
S4E06: Evelyn
S4E05: Moving On [Sara and the Marshal]
S4E04: Boys Will Be Boys
S4E03: Incident at Vernon River
S4E02: The Lady and the Blade
S4E01: Tug of War

S3E13: Old Friends, Old Wounds
S3E12: The Calamitous Courting of Hetty King
S3E11: High Society
S3E10: After the Honeymoon
S3E09: Vows of Silence [True Confessions]
S3E08: Friends and Relations
S3E07: A Dark and Stormy Night
S3E06: Aunt Janet Rebels [Aunt Janet’s Rebellion]
S3E05: Another Point of View [Facts and Fictions]
S3E04: Felix and Blackie
S3E03: But When She Was Bad…She Was Horrid [Part 2]
S3E02: But When She Was Bad…She Was Horrid [Part 1]
S3E01: The Ties That Bind [Sister of the Bride]

S2E13: Misfits and Miracles
S2E12: A Mother’s Love
S2E11: It’s Just a Stage
S2E10: Dreamer of Dreams
S2E09: All That Glitters
S2E08: Sea Ghost
S2E07: Family Rivalry
S2E06: May the Best Man Win
S2E05: Old Quarrels, Old Love
S2E04: Of Corsets and Secrets and True True Love
S2E03: Aunt Hetty’s Ordeal
S2E02: How Kissing Was Discovered
S2E01: Sara’s Homecoming

S1E13: Nothing Endures but Change
S1E12: The Hope Chest of Arabella King
S1E11: The Witch of Avonlea
S1E10: Felicity’s Challenge
S1E09: Malcolm and the Baby
S1E08: Aunt Abigail’s Beau
S1E07: Conversions
S1E06: Proof of the Pudding
S1E05: Old Lady Lloyd [Song of the Night]
S1E04: The Materializing of Duncan
S1E03: The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s
S1E02: The Story Girl Earns Her Name
S1E01: The Journey Begins

Further Reading

See scholarship and trade articles by Sid Adilman, Tony Atherton, Mike Boone, Lars Davidson, Jennifer Fisher, Hugh Fraser, Alexandra Heilbron, Trisha Hickey, Ben E. Jansen, Martin Knelman, Eric Kohanik, Patsy Aspasia Kotsopoulos, Benjamin Lefebvre, Bonnie Malleck, Diane Menzies, Mickie Moore, Stephen Nicholls, Ted Shaw, Alex Strachan, Diane Turbide, Vit Wagner, Susan Walker, and Geoffrey York.