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Not so happy ever after Abba

AGNETHA: Abba & After was most notable for what wasn't said and who didn't say it – in this case the documentary's subject, Agnetha Faltskog, aka "the blonde one".

For the first time in 25 years, Faltskog has released an album of original songs, including a duet with Gary Barlow, one of the featured talking heads here. It comes after a retreat from the public limelight during which details of Faltskog's private life were endlessly speculated upon by the tabloids.

The experience left her bruised and her continuing wariness about revealing too much of herself was evident throughout the programme, the final 15 minutes of which were a shameless puff for the new album. Mind you, the soft-soap interviewing technique didn't help.

Reports that she and Abba's other female member, Frida Lyngstad, who wasn't interviewed for the programme, didn't get along were diplomatically glossed over.


There were arguments between them at times, said Faltskog, but usually because they were "tired" during long recording sessions. A clip from an Australian press conference of Lyngstad looking distinctly unimpressed as a journalist harped on about Faltskog's sex symbol status, something the woman herself denied being aware of, suggested the tension ran deeper than mere fatigue-induced tetchiness.

Faltskog's moderate post-Abba career (her first three solo albums made little impact outside Sweden and certain pockets of Europe) meant that the "after" element of the story was considerably less interesting than the "before" part.

Faltskog was a star in her native country long before she, future husband Bjorn Ulvaeus, Lyngstad and Benny Andersson morphed into Abba.

She was making self-penned hit records – one of which kept The Beatles, then in their first flush of fame, off the top of the Swedish charts – from the age of 15.

The archive footage was fascinating, not least because it revealed the vast gulf that existed between pop music taste in Sweden and the rest of the world, which Abba would eventually conquer with record sales of 375 million.

The contributions of Andersson, who was married to Lyngstad for a time, and Ulvaeus, who still seems pained by the disintegration of his marriage to Faltskog, were the best things about the documentary.

The pair wrote all the band's songs and gave excellent insights into the creative process. In a business not known for its lack of gigantic egos, they were remarkably generous in their willingness to take a backseat to the women and just get on with churning out the hits.

And what hits there were. I never cared for Abba's music, although I'm not enough of a musical snob to overlook the amount of talent and songwriting craft that went into making those perfect three-minute pop tunes.


What do you think Irish television needs most right now? Another cookery programme? Another tourist-baiting travelogue featuring a soundtrack of diddly-eye music and 40 shades of green cliches? How about a combination of the two?

The latter is what you get in Lyndey Milan's Taste of Ireland. You've probably never heard of Lyndey – I know my world had never been troubled by her existence before last night – although you might be familiar with her if you lived in Australia.

Down there she's a chef and a well-known "media personality" (thank you, Wikipedia) who's been writing articles and making television programmes about food for the past 25 years.

So what's she doing telling us about our cuisine and tourist hotspots?

Well, that's the strange thing; she isn't, really. Lyndey Milan's Taste of Ireland is actually an Australian programme aimed at an Australian television audience and providing an Australian's view of Ireland and its apparently underrated culinary delights.

Its unspoken motto seems to be: "There more to the Irish than potatoes, you know."

We knew that already, so why is TV3 showing this? I don't know, and I gave up wondering 10 minutes into it.

Agnetha: Abba & After 3*

Lyndey Milan's Taste of Ireland 1*