REVIEW : No scoop for a newsman as happy as Harry

Harry (BBC1), as has been fairly widely reported, has had a face- lift. The first series of the Michael Elphick vehicle was apparently deemed rather dour and down in the mouth by the viewers and, after focus-groups to identify the problems and a few weeks to let the scars heal, it has returned with a strangely taut smile. The result, an unprecedented outbreak of journalistic ethics centring on the Darlington area, is decidedly odd.

"Break the door down, everyone does that," suggests a photographer to the young journalist trying to doorstep an old-age pensioner who is selling a bravery medal. "No, we can't do that," replies the reporter, as though he suspects that the place has been wired for sound by the Press Complaints Commission. "Shall we come back another time?" he enquires gently, after the old man has proved reluctant to talk. The photographer himself, dispatched to take pictures of a cleaning lady in her knickers, returns empty handed: "She's doing it for her kid - I came out of it feeling awful," he explains wistfully. If things go on like this, the press agency will be bankrupt before the end of the second series.

There is a game attempt to leave Harry with some residual menace - "Your heart froze up years ago," says his pretty sparring partner, a young reporter on the local paper. "A pike like you doesn't share its pond." Perhaps not, but a pike like Harry would probably be caught gently nudging ducklings to safety with its snout. Given a juicy story about the shocking past of a star footballer's wife, Harry turns marriage counsellor and helpful spin-doctor. "Don't worry," he reassures her, "the bastard on your back is my main course." Cue a sympathetic spoiler in the national press and a snarling blackmailer shown the door. Perhaps a change of title is in order now, too - something like Hello Harry!

Spare a thought for Miranda Richardson, currently enduring the unique discipline of narrating a Mark Harrison documentary. The last victim was Tilda Swinton, who intoned her way through Visions of Heaven and Hell, Channel 4's series about technological change. Richardson has been called in for Magic Animals (BBC2), a striking set of films about animals in myth; supernatural history, you could say. Last week she lurked in a sound- stage wood, dressed in furs and murmuring Delphic remarks about bears. This week she was made up to look like a dolphin and had to say things like, "Only now do we need them, only now do they seem to carry for us a message - an answer to all that went before and all that will come after."

But if this sort of thing doesn't make you grind your teeth to clinker, and if your sanity can survive the noodling ambient music that runs unbroken in the background, then there are real pleasures in the films. It feels like a talent misapplied to me, but a talent it undoubtedly is. Harrison through-composes his films with the same dogged persistence as his composer, styling each shot with slightly fantastic details. Sometimes this makes you bark with laughter, as when a dolphinoid sculpture from the studio suddenly appeared in a field, presumably in silent rebuke of the chemical works in the background. At other times they have an allusive force which reminds you how drably literal most documentaries are, how unconcerned with visual insinuation.

Introducing the moment at which humans first started to explore underwater, Harrison showed you a door floating on the sea swell, the colours echoing those of the ceremonial space from which Richardson delivered her text. Underneath the grim New Age blarney there is a proper thoughtfulness about some of the ideas explored. Maybe a few pretensions are a lot better than no ambitions at all.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
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.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits