TELEVISION / I have seen the past, and it winks and mugs

NOT BEING particularly fond of the sort of sweety you find in tartan tins adorned with slogans like 'It's braw tasty, ye ken]', I found The Tales of Para Handy (BBC 1) something of a burden on the spirit. But I had a bad conscience while watching it. How could one decently object, after all? No violence, no bad language, folksy comedy and some lovely set-dressing (one scene, in particular, looked as if it had been shot at an unusually prosperous transport museum); if my critical faculties were prepared to lie back and surrender to Love on a Branch Line, what grounds for an affronted resistance here?

The simple distinction, I think, lies in the fact that Love on a Branch Line was prepared to show you people getting into bed with each other - that is, decorous as it was, it took the risk that it might offend the odd viewer. In The Tales of Para Handy, should the matter even arise, you would just get some coy chuckles and a broad wink (there's a deal more winking and twinkling than a body can be expected to take in any one hour).

This is a world where people never get drunk and nasty, just 'tipsy' and jovial - where unemployment is the occasion for cunning ploys rather than despair, and where the comedy is a matter of lost toupees, burnt sausages and frustrated spinsters. It purports to offer you a folksy rascality but is actually about as earthy as coir compost, as naughty as a whisky-flavoured toffee. Even escapism shouldn't be quite so cutely evasive as this.

It didn't help my curmudgeonly mood that everyone in the cast mugs away furiously, gurning and grimacing as if we were still 10 years away from the invention of talkies. Both Gregor Fisher, who played Rab C Nesbitt, and Rikki Fulton, a popular Scottish comedian, are capable of something far less ingratiating than this. But the real problem is the studied inoffensiveness of the thing - in its purified, pureed manner it slips down without resistance, reminding you most forcibly of one of those Victorian invalid preparations - 'guaranteed not to discompose the most delicate of constitutions'. Nice scenery, though.

Blue Heaven (C4), on the other hand, is as inadvisably gamy as a three-day-old chicken tikka - but actually makes you laugh from time to time. Written by Frank Skinner, in a manner which allows for frequent pieces to camera, it concerns the unseemly home life of an aspiring musician. His mother (Paula Wilcox) is a screeching alcoholic ('Deary me, is that the time already?' says Skinner, eyeing the dregs of the sherry bottle), his father a philandering boor with his eyes on a local barmaid. Surprisingly, the mother is first discovered standing in front of an easel, brush in hand, but only to allow for a gag - 'I need bright light for my art,' she says, 'otherwise I can't see the numbers.'

This is offensive - cheerfully and inventively so. 'It doesn't sound very Liverpool,' says someone when 'You'll Never Walk Alone' is mentioned in the context of football anthems. 'No,' concedes another 'but they could hardly play 'You Gotta Picka Pocket or Two'.' That made me yelp aloud, but Blue Heaven also offers comic acuity of detail. There may be tender souls out there who think that the barmaid's chosen tipple of Tia Maria and cider 'in a lady's glass' is a wildly surreal invention - it isn't, it's just good observation. Best line, though, came from an Asian newsvendor, a man who speaks almost entirely in home- made aphorisms. 'Good news is like a goldfish,' he warns Frank, 'it shimmers and sparkles in the light, but if you look closely there is nearly always a long piece of shit hanging off it.' Dirty-minded, and genially aggressive, Blue Heaven restored my faith in human nature.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz