Review

I hope that the BBC doesn't feel that the popularity of Ballykissangel (BBC1) gives it an excuse to languish on its laurels, because the second series suggests that the cushion may not be comfortable for long. The chief problem is the obvious one - that suppressed attraction soon stops being erotically teasing and starts to be simply frustrating. All fore and no play will make Father Peter a dull boy, over-dependent on wistful gazes and awkward blushes whenever a double-entendre crops up (about every five minutes, if the writers have anything to do with it).

Last night's episode restored a bit of edge to the series, with Niamh's miscarriage and a young single mother abandoning her baby on Father Peter's doorstep, demonstrating that it is possible to mix a touch of real feeling with the puckish, bucolic comedy (a tourist advert which is actually made with "the support of investment incentives for the Irish Film Industry provided by the Government of Ireland"). There was, for example, a nicely observed scene in yesterday's episode where the grieving Niamh looks down to find that the chain has come off her bicycle, just the kind of bathetic last straw which life has a habit of delivering. This was a little back- eddy in the narrative flow, dialogue free and disinterested (no groundwork was being laid for a later gag), and it touched on your feelings more effectively than other, more purposeful exchanges of dialogue (Niamh had a tendency to do that thing that people do in television drama - saying somebody's name, leaving a meaningful pause and then expressing gratitude for their solidarity: "And Dad?... Thanks", "Assumpta?... Thanks"). The rest is straightforward woodwind drama - warm, inherently optimistic and generally backed by a bassoon. Which is fine as far as it goes, but it won't go forever.

Bragg on America (ITV) is something of a departure for the South Bank Show presenter, a studiedly personal film which sets out to break some of the rules established by the long-running arts programme. I suspect the chief problem for viewers will be one of vocal register, rather literally in the opening section, where Bragg's tonally forthright pieces-to-camera are interrupted (or augmented) by a quite distinctive voice, quieter and more ruminative. It sounds like second thoughts, and it adds to the difficulty you have in getting your bearings within the film. Should this really be called Bragg on Bragg? Or is it, as the inserts from David Hockney and Alan Parker and Richard Hoggart suggest, a more general essay about the British love affair with America ("I was brought up in Bradford and Hollywood" said Hockney, sketching the imaginative dominion of American films with an economic line).

It turns out to be a bit of both, but the fact that Bragg has to keep jumping the ditch from presenter to subject, from intimacy to inquiry, is oddly disconcerting. This was particularly conspicuous when a confessional passage from Bragg cut to Richard Hoggart saying "I think it's absolutely true what you've just said". But hadn't he just been talking to us, not Hoggart? There was a little lurch of affront for the viewer here, as though we had misinterpreteted a signal of familiarity and then been rebuffed. Whatever else it does, the programme demonstrates how difficult it is to ignore the unconscious conventions which viewers use to orientate themselves.

But even if it is a bit of a bumpy ride, with unannounced diversions, there are some worthwhile views along the way - particularly in the historical sense of the longing gaze westwards - which ranges from poor miners to Romantic poets. There is also a sly sense of comedy at work. At one point, Bragg stood in a back alley in Wigton recalling the medieval tangle of ginnels, from which America looked like a realm of unfenced possibilities. As he talks, an old man burdened with plastic bags squeezes past him, doggedly undeferential to the camera and the celebrity. It would have been easy enough to reshoot this, but it was pertinently left in - hinting at the slightly bloody-minded insularity from which a young man might well wish to escape.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing