TELEVISION / Mining a rich seam of Lancastrian comedy

LINE of the week emerged from All Quiet on the Preston Front (BBC 1). I know that we haven't got very far in yet and Absolutely Fabulous is still to come, so no guarantees are offered, but I doubt it will be bettered. Susan Wooldridge uttered it, pleading for her little daughter to be left alone by the girl's biological father. She was getting confused, she explained, and it was all 'clattering round her head like a button in a Hoover'. I had a bit of trouble dislodging the line myself, it was such a lovely mixture of domestic bathos and accuracy, exactly catching that mental rattle that occurs when you can't quite pin down what's worrying you.

The father in the case is Hodgey, whose likely lads friendship with Eric provides one rich seam for the series to exploit; both are also in the Territorial Army, which isn't so much a seam as an opencast mine. For the last four weeks lorries with wheels the size of small houses have been carrying off the spoils - the social embarrassments of class and rank, the collision of the sharp-witted with intellects so blunt you could park cars on them. The comedy is school of Peter Tinniswood - the ordinary accidents of life occasionally tweaked into something more baroque, what you might call Northern Surreal. Last night, for instance, included a Chinese restaurant proprietor who had named his restaurant after Audrey Hepburn, because she was the most beautiful woman in the world. After her death he briefly contemplates changing it to Sharon's, in honour of Sharon Stone but then the Golden Dragon in Ormskirk closes down and he can get the menu covers on the cheap.

Sometimes the lines are a little too elaborately crafted as comic writing at the expense of character ('Have you ever thought how Morecambe Bay Prawns sounds like an American football team?' asks one of the dimmer members of the TA Platoon) but for the most part Tim Firth has that dry Lancashire point-scoring just right. 'If I stuck some feathers on an old slipper and told him it was a rare Shetland Slipper Kestrel, the wallet would be out - boomf]' notes a disgruntled farm-hand about his arriviste employer. Asked earlier how the sheep are, he replies with casual insolence: 'They say they're happy but they've asked for a vaulting horse.' 'Gentle comedy' is usually a coded way of saying 'amiable but unfunny' but it's right for All Quiet on the Preston Front, a series which manages to combine a tenderness about the little troubles of life with a fine and funny script.

Des Lynam leapt from a helicopter during How Do They Do That? and by the end of the first episode you could understand what made him jump. There's nothing wrong with the programme itself that switching off your set won't cure but it is mildly depressing to see a presenter of such talent at the centre of such an artificial business. Lynam is one of television's natural fibres, his genius being to bring a touch of laid-back intelligence to a field noted for its synthetic agitation. But this thing is polyester through and through, all fake perkiness and telly mannerisms ('You ask the questions and we'll try to supply the answers,' says Des. 'We certainly will,' adds his sidekick Jenny Hull, with Blue Peter-ish up-and-at-em.)

The items themselves were fine, including a grisly account of how a policeman's severed hand had been sewn back on and an explanation of how you can guarantee to win a state lottery (you need around dollars 7m stake money and an army of accountants, so don't get too excited). Best of all the little film about the retouching of cover photos for glossy magazines suggested the format might do something more useful than just make your mouth gape - Princess Diana looks a lot less ethereal before the computer paintbox gets to work on the nose job. But somehow we've got to save Des. Last night he was even guilty of one of those little autocue chuckles at a scripted line, a grim thing to see a hero commit. As he plummeted through the roof of TV centre, I wasn't thinking How Do They Do That? but How Are the Mighty Fallen.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
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.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders