Sunday 24 September 2017

Stop, Search, Seize review: Not even a charming proposal or copious drugs in the post can save Sky's new show on Irish customs from terminal lack of tension

Stop Search Seize - Sky
Stop Search Seize - Sky
Ed Power

Ed Power

If Sky's intention was to place Ireland's customs authorities on a pedestal with Stop, Search, Seize, then the first episode of this curious new fly on the wall documentary was a distinct case of mission unaccomplished.

While those manning the frontlines at our airports, ferry terminals and erm parcel sorting offices were a picture of professionalism, the chief emotion the show elicited was sympathy for the  passengers pulled up at random and grilled as to the particulars of their journey.

Indeed,  the skittish among us may feel that the paranoia we regularly experience schlepping through the blue channel at arrivals completely justified by the revelation that officials are on the lookout for those of unusually nervous disposition (I don't know about you but my complexion turns an interesting shade of "guilty maroon" the instant someone in uniform throws a stray glance in my direction).

Quite why this show exists is a mystery. The work-place reality genre is of considerable vintage and it's not clear that Stop, Search, Seize brings anything new. The biggest innovation was the Irish setting – presumably an attempt by Sky to underscore its commitment to its considerable subscriber base here.

Stop Search Seize - Sky
Stop Search Seize - Sky

But the opening dispatch lacked drama and your sympathies were mostly with the randomers taken in for interrogation. In particular, you felt for a man straight off a long-haul from Hong Kong who complained he was consistently targeted by Irish customs.

Otherwise the tension was distinctly low-wattage. Indeed the gentle manner in which certain transgressions were handled came as a shock.  It was, for instance, surprising to see a cigarette-smuggling Russian let off with a caution. Many of us might have assumed a night in the clinker was compulsory. The (entirely innocent) ex-pat from Hong Kong appeared to have received a far rougher welcome.

That said, there were moments of charm, such as when a chap from the Continent arranged for a Dublin airport customs official to pretend he was in hot water, so that he could propose to his girlfriend (though it sounds complicated his ruse actually worked a a charm). Also noteworthy were the vast quantities of drugs sent through the post  – much of it confiscated thanks to ace-sniffer dog Stella in Portalaoise.

The big fear, of course, was thatLondon-based Sky would give the series a gloss of Father Ted-style condescension. Happily, the dreaded quaintness never manifested – indeed, if you hadn't known better you might have believed you'd stumbled upon a late night re-run of RTE's perennially cringeful Nationwide.

With the exception of a slick montage of  life at Dublin Airport early on, the tone was low key and underwhelming. Like the Russian and his dodgy cigs, Stop, Search, Seize was at pains not to draw undue attention to itself.

Stop Search Seize is a 20 part series for Sky One broadcasting Tuesday nights at 10pm.

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