Last Night's TV: Women in Love/BBC4
Monroe/ITV1
A Farmer's Life For Me/BBC2

Rather a lot happened in the first part of BBC4's Women in Love – two drownings, at least one fight, a rape – though you wouldn't necessarily know it. The quiet, almost whimsical, nature of William Ivory's script allowed events to unfold gently, playing second fiddle to the internal dramas of the characters. It's a risky strategy: an adaptation of D H Lawrence's dual novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love, in which the predominant themes are sex and guilt could be a recipe for introspective torpor if ever there was one. And yet, to my mind, it all came off.

Women in Love errs on the right side of turgid. Which is to say, it avoids it. It boasts the sort of cast of which few directors can dream: Rosamund Pike and Rachael Stirling star as the Brangwen sisters, intent on embracing life more vigorously than their parochial parents. As the artistic Gudrun, Pike's preoccupation is with her bohemian set in London; a promising fine art student, she is as much in love with the idea of seducing her teacher as with the man himself. Stirling's Ursula, meanwhile, oscillates between a desire to reunite with her fiancé and frustration at his inability to satisfy her sexual urges.

While Pike and Stirling's characters heed their mother's advice to "find love that will burn your very soul", Joseph Mawle and Rory Kinnear offer equally compelling performances as the vigorous Gerald Crich and introspective Rupert Birkin. Curiously, the two pairs – at least in this first half – barely interact at all. Instead, they exist as parallels, male and female equivalents, coming to terms with the social changes of the day.

Sex, of course, is everywhere; this is after all D H Lawrence. A good 50 percent of the programme takes place, as it were, in the nude. Still, there's more to the Women in Love than just lust. Thanks, in large part, to the strength of Pike and Stirling's performances (particularly, I thought, the former, whose Gudrun occupies a near-constant state of fragility and self-consciousness), it resists the temptation to become period smut. Instead, we are offered a quietly engaging depiction of change through the generations. As we left them, Birkin was grappling with the subject of his sexual orientation, Crich with the tragedy of his sister's death. The two sisters, meanwhile, have cast off the men in their lives, preparing to "feel the earth between their toes". What that entails remains too be seen. I, for one, look forward to finding out.

James Nesbitt recently gave an interview claiming that his hair transplant – performed not so long ago by a Dublin clinic for whom he has since filmed a promotional video – had revitalised his career. Well, good. I like James Nesbitt. And I like Monroe. A lot, actually: Nesbitt is perfect as the soft-centred surgeon and Sarah Parish (destined, it seems, to play members of the medical profession) offers the perfect female foil as the icy, aloof Bremner.

However – and I'm sorry if I sound superficial here, but I'm not the one who spent goodness knows how much on hair – there's one problem. It's all I can think about. Nesbitt, for me, has become one of those celebrities. One of those people you can't watch without thinking one thing – in this case: "hair!" Rather like Tom Cruise ("nutter!"), Lindsay Lohan ("rehab!") and Jennifer Aniston ("single!"), he has assumed an identity in his own right. A distracting, giant hairpiece of an identity.

And so it was that, last night, when the curmudgeonly doctor decided not to operate on his patient, a former squaddie whose beer-and-ketamine-fuelled night out on the town had resulted in his falling over and developing a potentially fatal blood clot on the brain, all I could think was: maybe they should have refused to operate on you. Maybe your hair would have grown back, just like the squaddie's blood clot slowly drained away. And when he flirted with the Eastern European biochemist-cum-coffee maker, all that went through my mind was: good thing you've got hair. And when it gets to the bit where he shaves the head of his patient, well, you can imagine. The associations go into overdrive. Perhaps you don't have the same problem. Perhaps you didn't even know of Nesbitt's hair history. In which case, I've just told you and – in all likelihood – ruined him for you for ever. If that's the case, well, I'm very sorry.

Last night was the final of A Farmer's Life for Me. I know, right: Clear your diaries! Get the wellies out! But – scoff all you like – this was gripping stuff. I've not seen the rest of Jimmy Doherty's win-a-farm competition, and now I wish I had. Who knew driving tractors could be so tense? Of the nine original entrants, just two couples remained in the competition: the capable but somewhat dizzy Ray and Jane and the practical, business-minded Ian and Sue.

The point, said Doherty, was to serve them up the "farming day from hell", full of ploughing and herding and pitching-their-business models. Somewhere along the line I found myself rooting for Ray and Jane, which is good, since they won (this despite an apparent inability to perform basic maths). Still, the farm is theirs, and Jane's lamb burgers will be coming soon to a market near you.

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
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.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game