I grabbed what was labeled as a movie at the library ("Saddle Club: Friends Forever"), but which didn't quite feel like a cohesive movie as I watched it, and which Amazon confirms is in fact just a string of episodes from the TV series. Well, no matter! Throw me into the deep end and let's go. I still don't know why Australia is the country that decided to adapt this very American book series, but let's see how they did. Also I'm tagging this as 'books' because there is going to be a lot of comparison to those.
(based on the fact that I was obsessed with this series as a youth but also haven't set foot in this world since I was 14. Maybe two Pine Hollow [its high school era spin-off] novels a couple years past that.)
-Does Australia even HAVE pine trees? I'm begging you to understand why Australia feels like a weird place to call a stable Pine Hollow. Otherwise, it actually translates pretty well. Loving the accents.
-A+ snooty Veronica DiAngelo, though she needs darker hair
-OH MY GOD THAT GRAY HORSE (HUGO) IS GORGEOUS. Like that is an UNUSUALLY handsome specimen of a horse.
-Prancer! Comanche! Garnet! Penny and Dime! I REMEMBER Y'ALL. Yo, btw, where's Starlight? And why is Carol riding this imposter buckskin, who is pretty but also Definitely Not Starlight and don't you dare tell me he is.
-Oh my goshhhhh the horses in this series are all so pretty, even the plain colored ones. This is exactly why I've been trying to get myself to watch Heartland or Free Rein, and only keep rebelling because I'm Not Prepared for so much beauty when I can't go pet a real one.
-I had to make an educated guess on who was Lisa and who was Stevie (look them up online at the outset? far too sensible). I always think of Lisa as being more tall/slender and kind of withdrawn whereas I think of Stevie as being plucky and vivacious, so naturally I assumed the scrawny one was Lisa...
But I chose WRONG and now it's BUMMING ME OUT because they are so obviously cast in the wrong roles, and also the girl who plays Lisa is SO magnetic and Stevie is mostly my favorite book character (*points @ username*), but this actress is absolute Amateur Hour. I mean, it's all mostly Kids Show level, but the rest of them are noticeably more passable as real actors.
-Carol, for example, who regularly traded off with Stevie as my favorite, remains awesome in this adaptation.
-What the heck, is that Phil? COME ON. Phil is a boyfriend in a middle school book. He is supposed to be so swoon-worthy that even us girls who can't conceive of why anyone would WANT a boyfriend at this age aren't able to resist.
-Finally, most importantly: HOLY HELL THAT IS A MAX REGNERY UPGRADE. He was always so grumpy in the books that I found him very unpleasant, even in his occasional 'softie' moments where the girls would show why they liked him, and I was never comfortable with him on the page. I preferred Red. But TV show version? Red can just get the hell out, MAX IS WHERE IT'S AT.
I mean, first of all, that is an incredible face. That is the most My Original Type you can get, with the blue eyes and blond hair. Second of all, that is an incredible mix of "authoritative and Adult and possibly stern/strict, but never mean, and obviously caring deeply about both the horses and the girls under his care."
Like, one of the episodes has Stevie Super Extra Dramatically taking her horse for One Last Stroll in the fresh air like he's been confirmed on death row (he's literally experienced 1 day of mild listlessness and the EIA test results are inconclusive, take a chill pill), only for him to get spooked and run off. Stevie -- who is Missing because she didn't tell anyone where she was going -- trails back to the stable on foot crying her eyes out, and WHY LOOK IT'S MAX, HERE TO WRAP HER IN A HUG. "You're back. That's the main thing," he says in response to her sobbing apologies, approximately 10 seconds after having been age-appropriately cussing her out in her absence and laying out threats of stall-mucking duties for a month.
THAT'S the kind of quality content I've come to see. Or more accurately, the one that makes me want to dig out all my old Saddle Club books until I remember I consciously chose not to collect them, so I only have one and I don't know where it is. Gah!
Anyway, Maxy-boy here is played by Brett Tucker, and my instant attachment to him is impressive given that he was last and only seen by me playing Jackass Jonah on Off the Map, a.k.a. Black Market Organ Transplanter extraordinaire. [EDIT: OH NO NO NO FALSE. I can't believe I failed to recognize him as Xander, the Very Kind-Eyed Therapist on The Brave, whom I ALSO instantly adored. OK, now things are starting to make sense]
And...those are all the notes I took, and as it's now 4 months later that I'm actually posting this, I have no more.