Highs and lows in dramatic offerings

Having lost some of its programmes to UTV Ireland, TV3 had to fight back with some stronger programming and the twice-weekly drama Red Rock was flagged as its foray into original soaps.

Describing it as a soap actually does it something of an injustice, as it’s better than that. The atmospheric visuals immediately put it beyond soap territory, and though some of the acting is rather stilted, it’s good to see a lot of relatively new faces.

I particularly like Jane McGrath as Garda Sharon Cleere. The character is dedicated and thoughtful and has at least two tough dilemmas so far: agonising over whether to report a colleague who seems to be having an affair with an underage schoolgirl and joining with her female sergeant to give the bad news of his daughter’s death to an old and dying man.

Richard Flood, Paul Roe and Andrea Irvine also impress in their garda roles, and in general I think the gardai will be happy enough about how they are portrayed. Yes there are clichés, like the Romeo and Juliet relationship between two from the feuding Hennessy and Kiely families. Thankfully, as it’s before the watershed, it is largely free of gross and graphic elements.

I’d say TV3 is mighty pleased to have the rights to the second series of ITV’s drama Broadchurch (Monday nights). It was one of the best dramas on TV last year and so far the second series doesn’t disappoint.

The opening episode packed a huge emotional impact, and cleverly they have continued with the original story while developing another murder case that was hinted at in the first series.

Last Monday’s third episode lost the focus a little on plot and pace, and there was a bit of gratuitous sexual content, but the ending packed an emotional punch worth waiting for.

Olivia Colman and David Tennant are superb in the roles as troubled cops, and the supporting cast is excellent. There’s even an occasional faith element, as the local clergyman interacts sympathetically with some of the main characters.

UTV Ireland has some strong dramas of its own and presumably most of ITV’s back catalogue is available. One of the best was a two-parter, Undeniable, which finished last Friday night. It matched Broadchurch in emotional intensity, empathy with characters and the high tension one expects from a good crime drama.

Claire Goose was particularly believable as Jane, a young mother who believes she has stumbled upon the man who murdered her mother 23 years previously.

Once we learn she’s off her anti-depressants we suspect no one will believe her, which is a rather tired plotline frequently employed in haunted house stories (are there any stories where the man appears to be having visions and the woman won’t believe him?), but the drama was so good I won’t complain too much.

A friend recommended I look at Blue Bloods, a US cop show that returned to RTÉ2 on Wednesday of last week as it was supposed to have a faith element. It centers around a Catholic family, the Reagans, who hold various roles in law enforcement in New York. I was never a fan of Tom Selleck, finding him too wooden, but he’s a bit better than usual here, playing a reflective and principled police commissioner.

The only faith element I found in last week’s double helping was at the end of the first episode when a character blessed himself at an injured cop’s bedside. Far more interesting was the plotline in the second episode about what happens when a conscientious policewoman ‘rats’ on a colleague and is ostracised as a result. One of the young Reagans sticks his neck out on her behalf and, while some of the treatment is predictable, it raises important issues that will resonate here at home.

The drama that has received most attention in the last while was Charlie, RTÉ’s reconstruction of some events from the life of the former Taoiseach. I was underwhelmed as I struggled to watch the last episode last Sunday night. Yes, it was mild fun trying to spot the characters, while Aidan Gillen and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor did well as Charlie and P. J. Mara, I didn’t get any human insights and there were too many caricatures and awkward set pieces. 

Actually, I’d prefer to watch a documentary on events that are so recent.  


Pick of the Week


RTĖ 1, Sun, Feb 25, 11am

The choir, pupils and wider community of St Ultans, Cherry Orchard, Dublin, mark the beginning of Catholic Schools Week with a Mass in the RTÉ studios.

The Meaning of Life, with Gay Byrne

RTĖ 1, Sun, Feb 25, 10:30pm

New series. Cecila Ahern talks to Gay Byrne about growing up with Bertie.

Walk for Life West Coast

EWTN, Sat, Feb 24, 7.30pm

Complete coverage from San Francisco of the biggest annual pro-life event along the West Coast, USA.