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A hit and a miss for ‘Masterpiece’

Domhnall Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough in "Alice & Jack."Jack Merriman/Fremantle/PBS via AP

I thoroughly enjoyed watching “Nolly,” the three-part PBS “Masterpiece” starring Helena Bonham Carter. A look at a British soap star navigating the end of her career, it airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on GBH 2. But I did not thoroughly enjoy “Alice & Jack,” the “Masterpiece” drama that airs after it, at 10 p.m. It got on my nerves, as it charts the tortured relationship between a man and a woman across some 15 years. In ways, it’s another version of Netflix’s “One Day,” but without any of the charm or the chemistry as Alice (an arch Andrea Riseborough) and Jack (a puppy dogish Domhnall Gleeson) go back and forth, on and off, up and down, and back around again for six episodes.

Alice, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Jack, a medical tech, meet on a date arranged through an app. She is flirtatious, they click, and they hook up — but the next morning she tells him she won’t be seeing him again, ever, even though she had a good time. He reaches out nonetheless, but she resists, despite appearing to like him. For cliched reasons that slowly emerge, she refuses to consider entering into a real relationship with any man. For reasons that never emerge, he refuses to quit her despite every possible red flag.


After banging his head against the wall, Jack wakes up a bit, winds up with a more compatible woman named Lynn (Aisling Bea), and marries her when she gets pregnant. But the show is called “Alice & Jack,” not “Lynn and Jack,” and so Jack inevitably lets himself get pulled back into Alice’s orbit of mixed messages and manipulations. For reasons that never seemed clear to me, Jack is willing to throw everything away for a relationship — I’m not sure it qualifies as a romance — that, from the very first, is clearly doomed. Maybe he’s drawn to her brokenness, I don’t know. Maybe he’s a masochist.

It might all make more sense if Riseborough and Gleeson had more spark between them. But their parts are under-written, anyway, so that neither character has much dimension or motivation. Each is little more than one half of a tiresome, ill-fated love affair.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him @MatthewGilbert.