Last Night's Viewing: Homefront, ITV1; Wartime Farm, BBC2

ITV's drama began to bite a little after an opening of calculated mundanity

Homefront began like a British Gas advert, a high crane shot of a cosy-looking suburban close, with children playing on the traffic-less road and warm lights beginning to shine in the gloaming. But then the camera pushed in through a window to discover a woman stripping in front of a laptop camera for her soldier husband. It wasn't a very satisfactory affair. The kids were beating on the door at her end and his mounting appreciation was thwarted by the sudden arrival of the rest of his platoon, not in a mood to be respectful of this moment of marital intimacy. Such is army life, the opening of Jan McVerry's drama seemed to suggest – the illusion of happy domestic life resting on singular frustrations.

Much worse things can happen, of course. And the scene in which it did was the one where ITV's drama first began to bite a little, after an opening of calculated mundanity. Three friends prepared for a night on the town, fending off interested men; a mother tried to pry her stepson's attention away from the combat video game he was playing; a teenage girl snogged someone else's boyfriend outside a nightclub. And then, next morning, you got the low sustained note of anxiety all that vivacity was trying to disguise. Out for a run, Paula spotted a liaison officer arriving on the estate grim faced and ran in panic back to her front door, to slump in relief as his car rolls by. The bad news is heading for her friend Tasha and, as is customary, it enters by the front door.

The door was one of the nice details in Homefront. Never knock on the front door, novice Claire is told after she's gone to offer her condolences, always tap on a window or go round the back. That's because a formal approach can stop the heart when your man is in Helmand. Claire is a useful innocent here, a recent recruit to army life as the new partner of the Major, and thus available to be briefed on the things we need to know, as well as expose the tripwires of military convention by blundering directly into them. And, at its best, Homefront does take you to a place we probably don't know well enough.

It isn't always at its best, of course, being an odd mixture of sorority soap (the kind of thing that Kay Mellor can write in her sleep) and something tougher and sharper. The first episode also displayed some odd jolts of narrative control. When Tasha hears of her husband's death, for example, her mother-in-law is actually in the room, but her reaction is so matter-of-fact that you assume she's a more distant relative. And, yes, she's a service wife herself and schooled to resilience in the face of tragedy, but it still looks like a failure in the writing.

Similarly, Claire's reunion with her husband oddly occurs offscreen. One moment she's waiting anxiously for his return and the next minute he's snapping at her in church to pull herself together, and it's hard not to feel that a scene has gone missing. Then, just as you're getting impatient, it comes up with something good again: "He didn't have the brains to be a solicitor or the nous to deal drugs... what else was he going to do?" the Major said harshly to Claire, undercutting the eulogy he'd given earlier in public. That cut sharply enough to justify a second look.

They also serve who stay at home and sow flax, as we discovered from this week's episode of Wartime Farm, which also featured the virtues of soap-wort as a free shampoo (not very virtuous by the looks of things) and the advantages of the rabbit as a meat mammal. Some of the exposition can be a bit clunky, but the history – even the bureaucratic bits – can be fascinating.

twitter.com/tds153

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all