In the first episode, "Trying to Connect You," before Father Clifford has a chance to arrive in the town of Ballykissangel, the bus he is riding is almost smashed to bits by a huge wooden box. He soon finds out that this box contains a welcome gift from Brian Quigley, Ballykissangel's occasionally misguided preeminent businessman. The second episode, "The Things We Do for Love," finds a blast from Father Clifford's past arriving in town. Quigley's daughter, Niamh, is set to wed Ambrose, the earnest village guard, in "Live in My Heart and Pay No Rent." "Fallen Angel" finds a pirate radio station, Angel FM, and its DJ broadcasting hip tunes, wisecracks, and local gossip in an atrocious American accent over the town. When the DJ reveals that it's Father Clifford's birthday, Assumpta thinks up a gift that will surely get things rolling. "The Power and the Glory" is a bit tense for many of the characters. Quigley decides to run in the local election against the aspiring crematorium-builder, Sean Dooley, but an old flame of Assumpta's--a journalist--starts digging around and causing all sorts of trouble. In the sixth and last episode of the season, "Missing You Already," Father Clifford finds out he is about to be sent back to England. Meanwhile, Assumpta is busy coping with the impending competition of Quigley's Bar and Grill, which is moving in for the local festival and possibly longer. And finally, the happy couple of Niamh and Ambrose are getting married. This could be the end for the English priest in the small Irish town. --Amanda Powter
Only, unlike NORTHERN EXPOSURE, BallyK's inhabitants are a bit more realistic than Cicely's. You won't find radio announcers making catapult art, insane hypochondriacs badgering hermit chefs, or waitresses breaking into chronic song. Rather, BallyK is peopled by characters who present us with humor derived from their very ordinary humanity.
In truth, after the departure of Stephen Tompkinson and Dervla Kirwan, that humanity becomes a little too ordinary, and the show slips into a kind of soap opera normalcy. But for the two-year tenure of Tompkinson's Father Clifford and Kirwan's Assumpta Fitzgerald, BallyK is a fascinating place, where the storyline is fresh, and the characters genuinely evolve.
It's clear that the writers love their characters. They take great care to provide us with ones so involving, it is sometimes difficult to discern who the stars of the show actually are. Each main character has a well-defined relationship with all the rest.
At the end of the day, however, the show is most about two of them. The writers' greatest feat is the complete story arc of the Clifford-Fitzgerald relationship. It stands as one of the most complex liasons in the history of English-language television. Each episode teases greater definition out of the characters, and greater loyalty out of the viewer. By the end of their run, both Father Clifford and Asumpta have grown well beyond their initial characterizations.
I don't think that the whole of the first two seasons is yet available on VHS, but no matter. Start here at the beginning and work your way slowly forward. By the time you get to Topkinson and Kirwan's departure, you'll be left wondering why series television can't generally be this good.