There’s not much that the whole family can enjoy out there, but Ruby and the Well fits the bill.
What Is ‘Ruby and the Well’?
The Canadian-produced series — created by Brian and LeeAnne Adams of BYUtv’s fantasy adventure Dwight in Shining Armor — premiered in February, and all ten episodes are currently available at BYUtv.org and the BYUtv app.
Zoe Wiesenthal stars as Ruby O’Reilly, a teen who moves with her widowed father, Daniel (Kristopher Turner), to the small town of Emerald, to take over an apple farm left to Daniel by his uncle.
In the woods, Ruby stumbles across an empty, moss-covered well. Apparently, Ruby’s Irish ancestors include a line of “well-keepers.” Their task has been to help grant secret wishes captured in the well, revealed to the keeper in visions triggered by touching the stone.
With the help of her Scooby Squad — new teen pals Mina (Lina Sennia) and Sam (Dylan Kingwell) — Ruby sets out to investigate what she sees in the visions, beginning with the identity of the person who made the wish.
In one episode, the kids even acquire a secret lair of sorts.
Is ‘Ruby and the Well’ Suitable for the Whole Family?
Overall, Ruby is engaging and charming. It absolutely qualifies as family-friendly in terms of lacking sex, violence or bad language. And, thankfully, the teen girls aren’t sexualized or dressed in skimpy outfits. This is certainly not Pretty Little Liars, Euphoria or any number of overheated teen melodramas.
The show’s emphasis on logic, reasoning, research and social skills — both with other kids and adults — puts it leagues above ridiculous shows that emphasize popularity, fashion and dangerous behaviors as ways to be a successful teen. Blessedly, the show also stays out of school, so the endless scenes of study hall and lockers are absent.
Also, rather than investigating murders or other crimes, Ruby’s puzzles have more to do with the human heart, with the goal of creating good in her town.
The Premise Is Not Without Its Issues
It’s a fun premise, setting aside that the three teens are running around, snooping and talking to strangers in a manner that assumes that today’s small towns don’t have helicopter parents (pretty sure they do; that stuff spreads like black mold). Also, some of what the teens do is borderline illegal and definitely an invasion of privacy.
On a side note, Sam is the kind of dreamy-cute boy that would be the heartthrob in any other show, but, for some reason here, the girls don’t seem to notice. That goes double for Ben (Joel Oulette), a broody, formerly troubled older teenager whom Daniel kind of mentors.
I don’t even want to talk about the dwarf hamster the show has playing the role of a mouse (I’ve owned both, so I know the difference).
But, What About The Well, and Where’s Faith?
I have a nagging question, though: what’s the power behind the wishing well? If we don’t find out, is that a problem?
Fantasy can be tricky for Christian audiences. Generations have loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings books, and the movies made from them, but they don’t take place in our world. In C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books — which are set in our reality — the author threads the needle by framing his fantasy adventures as a pretty obvious Christian allegory.
On TV, Touched by an Angel and Highway to Heaven incorporated faith by having angels, and we all know Who’s behind angels.
But Ruby and the Well doesn’t go there.
The series doesn’t indicate that Ruby and her father have any particular religious beliefs. While the teen trio relies on luck, wits, the Internet and being very nosy to solve mysteries, faith or prayer are not mentioned. Ruby herself attributes the well’s power to “magic.”
But, here’s how the creators described the theme of the show to the Deseret News:
“Faith, service, forgiveness and reconciliation are among the central themes in the show, the Adams said. “The value at the heart of ‘Ruby’ is faith,” LeeAnne Adams said. “Ruby has faith in the power of the well. She has faith in herself. She has faith in her friends. She has faith because she really can make people’s lives better one wish at a time. That’s central to the story.”
The Show Has Irish Roots — Sort Of
By giving Ruby Irish heritage, the creators are alluding not just to wishing wells — make a wish and toss in a coin — but also to Ireland’s holy wells, which are mentioned in an episode. Dating from pre-Christian times, these wells were later blessed after St. Patrick evangelized the island. Many became associated with saints, especially Patrick, Brigid of Kildare, and Ann, the mother of Mary.
But, you don’t toss wishing coins into Irish holy wells, many of which are not even raised stone structures but basically water-filled holes in the ground. They’re mostly associated with miraculous healing, like the holy springs at Lourdes in France.
Whatever or whomever the pre-Christian Irish thought were behind the wells, the Catholic Irish believed that any effect they had was ultimately from God.
As for Ruby’s magic well, though, that answer is left up to the viewer.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing sinister about Ruby and the Well. If you just take the notion of a magic well on face value, it’s warmhearted, uplifting, harmless family entertainment.
Image: Goldstein & Ford/Steve Wilkie/© 2021 BYU Broadcasting. All rights reserved.
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