BBC Video // 1997 // 400 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // February 14th, 2004
Life is a challenge for any priest in a small mountain town, and Father Peter Clifford struggles to save his parishioners' souls without falling himself...for the local barkeep, Assumpta Fitzgerald.
The second season of Ballykissangel, the BBC-produced, quirky pastoral dramedy that aired from 1996 to 2001 on British television, picks up pretty much where the first season left off. Father Peter Clifford, the young priest from Manchester, is still living in the small Irish village of Ballykissangel ("BallyK" to its residents) and has become a full-fledged member of the BallyK community -- though his priestly role continues to keep him more distanced from the locals than he'd like, especially when it comes to pretty Assumpta, the spirited owner of Fitzgerald's Bar. Niamh and Ambrose, now married, are trying (strenuously) for a baby; entrepreneur Brian Quigley is still hatching his moneymaking schemes; and there are some new faces in town this year, including a has-been musician, Enda, who has designs on Assumpta. Over the course of the eight episodes that make up this two-disc set, we follow the residents of BallyK through their joys and sorrows, ambitions and disappointments.
In other words, life goes on in BallyK. Series two finds Ballykissangel settling in and hitting its stride, its characters and relationships deepening and showing new facets. One of the more significant developments this season is the increasingly ambiguous relationship between Father Clifford and Assumpta, who, in classic romantic tragicomedy fashion, are developing unspoken, verboten feelings toward each other. Highlights of the season include "Someone to Watch Over Me," in which a drifiting Niamh finds her calling when faced with a pack of unruly schoolkids; "Only Skin Deep," a hilarious episode featuring BallyK's first beauty contest; and the season closer, "Chinese Whispers," in which the community bands together against a pair of mysterious strangers.
As with the first season, the quality of Ballykissangel remains high, presenting thoughtful, funny, and poignant stories of small-town life with sensitivity, intelligence, and a minimum of cheap sentiment. The sense of family that ran through the previous series strengthens in these episodes, underscoring the ties that bind these people together and help them weather the inevitable calamities of life. The show is both reassuring, as a reminder of what's good about people and communities, and melancholy, in that such communities are all too rare in our increasingly dehumanized society.
This second set of DVDs from BBC Video is pretty much the same as the first season in terms of video and audio quality. There is the same full frame transfer, with a print that's about as good as can be expected given the source materials, which are a trifle desaturated and lacking in depth and clarity. Audio once again is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and is adequate if unmemorable. Unlike the first set, however, there are absolutely no special features to be found here, aside from a set of text-only cast biographies. The lack of extras is disappointing, but since there are eight episodes here compared to the previous set's six, it appears BBC Video chose to pack the "extra" space on that set with features instead of spreading them out. Fans will likely pick up both sets (released simultaneously as separate releases and as a double pack) anyway, so it's not a significant drawback.
Considering that the view of Irish life we get in the States rarely strays from the usual terrorist or "curse of the working class" themes, it's refreshing and illuminating to have a show like Ballykissangel present a fuller portrait of Ireland and its people. Needless to say, if you were hooked by the introductory season of Ballykissangel, you'll certainly want to continue your stay in BallyK with this fine collection of episodes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Biographies
* Official BBC Site