Were you watching when it happened, they’ll ask in years to come. Where were you when you heard the news, were you shocked? I am of course talking about the momentous occasion of TV3 and its lesser sister channels being rebranded Virgin Media One, Two and Three. An occasion of giant proportions, according to all and sundry at said station. It will be twenty years since the launch of TV3 on September 20th, and special shows will be aired to mark the occasion; Channel Hop: The Story of TV3 and Gogglebox does TV3, proving that it may be gone but it’s far from forgotten. Virgin Media One’s new Reeling in the Years style show, Don’t Look Back in Anger will only go back as far as TV3’s launch, which was in fact, as we all know, the dawn of time itself and everything before that is a mere illusion created for us by our overlord Richard Branson. Head of News at Virgin Media, Mick McCaffrey has heralded the re-branding as “a new era in Irish television”; isn’t what they said when UTV Ireland came to town?
Another brand in need of a shake-up is the increasingly anachronistic The X Factor. It returned to Virgin Media One on Saturday night with its new panel – that old fossil Simon Cowell, Louis Tomlinson and Robbie Williams and his wife Ayda Field. Louis is a former member of One Direction, arguably the most successful musical act ever to be spawned by The X Factor, and they didn’t even win, so on paper he’s actually quite well versed to add his opinions and experience to the panel. Simon needs no introduction, and neither does Robbie Williams, 90s star who loves the sound of his own voice so much that he sang his own horrible songs to his wife as she gave birth to their baby, the same wife who is sitting by his side on the panel to, I don’t know, make sure he doesn’t do anything to disgrace the family?
There was some emotion from the audience when the judges were paraded out onstage. The cringe back-room-of-a-hotel early auditions have been done away with since I Iast watched so now even the most awful act has to perform in front of a stadium full of people from the get-go, which is bad news for a great many of them, the most deluded notwithstanding. The judges love when they’re bad of course, so they can compete for the meanest way to tell them so, wrapped up in fake constructive criticism. It’s more of the same; ridiculously upbeat competitors coming back to give it another go and somehow surprising everyone with their talent. Even Brendan Murray made an appearance on Sunday’s show, with Simon giving him four chances to get his act together, as it were. On Saturday he professed that the music industry needed to change and diversify, but really it looks like boyband good looks and a sweet nature are still the order of the day and anything else is reduced to novelty. Robbie, Ayda and Louis have made themselves right at home and aren’t afraid to speak their minds (or remind everyone of their past glories) which I guess regular viewers will appreciate, but I for one have had enough of the stale formula made no livelier by the new panel, and hope it goes the way of Big Brother finally has and stumbles its way off the air next year.
Getting that big TV news out of the way, now we scoot over to RTE2 (formerly Network 2; that re-branding didn’t seem to do it any harm) at 9.30pm on Monday’s, where Grey’s Anatomy alum Sandra Oh is a pen-pusher with hidden ambition at MI5 who is unexpectedly promoted to catch a deadly female assassin in Killing Eve. A really smart, darkly humourous offering from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, adapted from a series of novels by Luke Jennings called Codename Villanelle, this female centric cat-and-mouse series began last Monday with a double episode and continued with episode three this Monday just gone.
Villanelle is the international assassin, played by Jodie Comer who some readers may recognise from Doctor Foster. A huge departure from her ingénue role, Comer puts her doe eyes and delicately pretty looks to good use as a sociopathic killer who will take on any identity and stop at nothing to complete her mission. Sandra Oh is a revelatory Eve, completely believable as a bewildered but naturally capable field agent looking for excitement and purpose with the help of her former boss (who we said a sad farewell to in Monday night’s episode, set in Berlin). A study in complicated women with the frequently nerve racking moments when Villanelle has her target in her trap, this is a hugely enjoyable programme with stellar performances by its two female leads, ably supported by Irish actress Fiona Shaw as the formidable head of the agency. If you’ve missed the first few episodes catch it on RTE Player.