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.

Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray is joining Strictly Come Dancing 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Double bill: Kookie Ryan, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Papou in ‘Nymphomaniac’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Big Blues - Shark' by Alexander Mustard won the Coast category

photography
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
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.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering