2014 in Reading: Favorite Nonfiction
The search for lighter nonfiction.

New feature: British television

Woman does not live by nonfiction alone. She does, in fact, live by nonfiction, fiction, magazines, the backs of cereal boxes, any and all reading material, and a whole load of British television.

It is this last item that will be the focus of this new feature of the blog. Periodically I'll take a break from the nonfiction and highlight British television series, miniseries, movies, actors...well, you get the point. I'll be doing this just in case there's anyone out there looking for a good source for Brit TV recommendations*, but also because I'm somewhat curious to track how many of these programs I've seen over the years (and hope very much to see in the future).

And today we'll start with a program near and dear to my heart: the very first British television series that captured my heart. I first watched it back in the days of antiquity when you had to figure out how to program your VCR to tape programs in your absence**, and then, if you were taping something on PBS, you had to hope they weren't having a pledge drive that would screw up your timing.

So this particular program was one that was on my local PBS station on Saturday nights, at eight p.m., and when I watched it I was at an age when I actually went out on Saturday nights. So one Saturday night I was at a party at a friend's house, when I remembered I hadn't set the VCR, so I had to run home and start the recording, because I simply could not miss an episode of Ballykissangel. I took some teasing about this fact from the friend whose house I had to leave briefly to go set the VCR, but karma has since intervened and given her an even bigger addiction to British TV than I have, so that's funny.

Ballykissangel was this great, hour (or so)-long drama set in a small rural village in Ireland. It featured the adventures of the locals, of course, led by Assumpta Fitzgerald (the owner of the local pub), her friend Niamh Egan (and her husband, the local constable), and Niamh's wheeler-dealer father, Brian Quigley (among many others). Into this rather settled village arrives a new and somewhat un-orthodox priest, Father Peter Clifford, who endears himself to the locals at the same time he frequently butts heads with his more conservative priest/supervisor Father MacAnally.

The series ran for six seasons, but the first three are the nearest and dearest to my heart. They feature the developing love story between Assumpta and Peter, which is awkward, as Peter is a Roman Catholic priest. I won't tell you how it works out, and don't you dare look ahead at season summaries on the Wikipedia page. Later seasons feature different characters (most notably: an insanely young Colin Farrell) and are enjoyable in their own way, but are not as all-consuming as the start to the series.

I loved the characters in this show. And of course, the setting: so beautiful. Much like Northern Exposure, this show made you want to live in a small community where all the locals know one another, although (from experience) I can tell you that that sort of thing isn't nearly as fun in real life.

The series ran from 1996 to 2001, and of course looks increasingly dated. But don't let that stop you (and don't be deterred by the almost painfully old-school, traditional Irish theme music); if you're just starting out in Brit TV, this should be one of your earlier stops.

Genres: Drama; Romance; Ireland; Community Life

Assorted Trivia I Know Because I Spend a Ridiculous Amount of Time at IMDB.com: The two stars of the show, Dervla Kirwan (Assumpta) and Stephen Tompkinson (Fr. Peter), were engaged to each other for two years during the show's run. They eventually broke up, and Dervla Kirwan went on to marry Rupert Penry-Jones, who is, there's no other way to put this, super hot.

So what do you think? What other information could I include in these Brit TV summaries?

*Anyone know of a good British TV reference site/guide they use?

**Well, we're pretty low-tech around here, so that's still the way we'd have to tape something, but there's nothing much on TV--we only get the broadcast channels--these days that we feel really compelled to record.