Have you tuned into UTV Ireland yet? Chances are you have, whether out of curiosity at the new channel, which was launched on New Year’s Day, but particularly if you’re a Corrie orEmmerdale fan. The popular soaps have migrated from poor old TV3, as will big viewings earner Downton Abbey once it returns next year, so the honchos at Ireland’s first independent station have had to think up fresh ideas to entice their once loyal viewers back and thus have come up with homegrown police procedural, Red Rock.
It debuted last Wednesday (January 7th) to some fanfare, having been promoted to the nth degree almost as much as the UTV Ireland launch. Beginning with the discovery of an unconscious man lying on a dockside in the fictional coastal town where the soap is based, the unfortunate turns out to be Darren Kiely, a name well known to the Guards. Once it’s been established that his injuries were caused by a serious assault fingers are immediately pointed at the Hennessy family, a family with a long running, but until recently dormant feud with the Kielys. The cease-fire has even led to one of the Kiely girls being employed in a Hennessy pub, and not only that, she’s in a relationship with one of the Hennessy sons. But everything changes once another son, Michael is brought in for questioning over the assailment, and all hell threatens to break loose once it’s revealed that Darren has succumbed to his injuries.
As Irish soaps go, this one is taking a grittier route, not unlike that along the lines of The Bill. The Guards of Red Rock are at the centre of the story; getting to grips with what’s now a homicide, getting to the bottom of the story and getting themselves into several spots of bother. Enthusiastic new recruit Sharon Cleere has been partnered with the token gombeen Paudge Brennan, who’s more interested in getting his sugary tea just right than investigating a promising lead. In doing so, by reviewing camera footage from a service station, Garda Cleere discovers evidence of an illicit affair between one of her superiors and a teenage schoolgirl.
The performances are promising, the storyline offers multiple avenues to explore and the characters are surprisingly compelling. Opinion has been divided on the harmonica heavy theme tune, but with its Western-style influence it sets the show up as a deeper drama, exploring more in-depth themes than may otherwise have been expected. I think it’s only fair to give it a chance; quality Irish-made television is thin on the ground and anything that has potential should be encouraged.
Not to feel too bad for TV3 though, with UTV’s poaching of some of its biggest shows, as those aforementioned honchos are pulling out all the stops in luring viewers away from the national broadcaster. As well as another few programmes commissioned especially for them, including reality-show The Oyster Clan, it has taken over broadcasting duties for primetime favourite The Restaurant from RTE1. Alan Shatter was the first public figure to become head chef for the night, and in doing so showed his lighter side, which revealed his passion for cooking, his sweet memories of his first date with his wife and his surprisingly goofy humour. This shedding of his political agenda may not rub well with those disgruntled with his past decisions and opinions, and might be seen as a cynical exercise in regaining favour with the public, and maybe I was taken in by it but I did rather enjoy the show, which concentrates on nothing else but the food being prepared and judged, as the public customers and regular judges get slowly sozzled. Rachel Allen joined Tom Doorley and Paulo Tullio as guest judge and the trio critiqued their way through a menu of chicken broth or prawns, duck a l’orange or black sole and zabaione or the most gigantic sherry and rum trifle I have ever seen. The main complaint from the customers was that there wasn’t enough alcohol in the sherry; not that they needed any more judging by how much Aldi wine was knocked down, but Shatter was given an overall 4 stars out of 5 for his efforts.
In true Irish style, tonight’s (Wednesday) “celebrity” chef is State Pathologist Marie Cassidy. Tune in for a light-hearted, slightly screwball show and what is sure to be an interesting menu.
Last Sunday night brought us the 72nd annual Golden Globes and the stars were out in force. A pre-cursor to the Oscars – some would even say a more fun, genuine affair – the Globes are a sit-down dinner event and include accolades for the small screen as well as the silver one. Claire Danes ended her run as winner for Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama for Homeland, losing out to British actor Ruth Wilson for The Affair, which also won Best TV Series, Drama. The Affair hasn’t reached our shores yet but now it’s only a matter of time. Netflix’s House of Cards continued to do well, with Kevin Spacey winning his first Golden Globe for his role in the political drama (having already been nominated 8 times). Transparent came out of left field to win Amazon Studios two major awards, for Best Actor, Musical or Comedy for Jeffrey Tambor, as a transgender woman and for Best Series, Musical or Comedy. Newcomer Gina Rodriguez won Best Actress, Musical or Comedy for Jane the Virgin, decidedly shaking things up for the often predictable awards.
It’s an interesting time in US TV history, with edgier and more forward thinking shows being broadcast, not on traditional stations like ABC and NBC, but directly online, allowing for far more leeway as regards explicit scenes and language, and freer reign with addressing controversial subjects. In Ireland, for now, we remain a terestial TV nation, but with ever increasing network rivalry, maybe those station honchos will begin to look Stateside for their next ideas in shaking up the system.
– Aoife B. Burke
First Published in The Tuam Herald on 15th January 2015