Sunday 4 December 2016

Can't Cope Won't Cope: Will Aisling’s drinking problem become a hangover for viewers?

Can't Cope Won't Cope, episode four

Published 04/10/2016 | 14:58

Nika McGuigan and Seana Kerslake in Can't Cope Won't Cope. Pic: RTE
Nika McGuigan and Seana Kerslake in Can't Cope Won't Cope. Pic: RTE
Nika McGuigan and Seana Kerslake in Can't Cope Won't Cope. Pic: RTE
Seana Kerslake and Amy Huberman in Can't Cope Won't Cope

In its early episodes Can't Cope Won't Cope did a convincing job of having its cake and eating it (or, more appropriately perhaps, having its vodka nagin and necking it in the loo)

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Humour and often stinging social observation circled in uneasy co-existence in a comedy of modern manners unlike anything else on RTE. But as we reached part four Stefanie Preissner's millennial dramedy took a swerve towards the serious and depressive with Aisling's tiff with Danielle appearing to send her into an alcohol-fuelled spiral.  

Not for the first time you wondered whether, to keep the story chugging along, RTE's surprise autumn hit has tilted too far towards the cartoonishly melodramatic.

Read more: Kirsty at large: Toilet chats, vodka shots and the Irish dream

Seana Kerslake and Amy Huberman in Can't Cope Won't Cope
Seana Kerslake and Amy Huberman in Can't Cope Won't Cope

Having fallen out with her bestie after Danielle’s big mouth jeopardised Aisling's career, our unsteady heroine (Seana Kerslake) was hitting the bottle (several bottles and many cans, in fact) with a vengeance verging on self-destructive.

Aisling’s journey home to her parents in Mallow – and the bombshell that she was about to become a big sister again - was anaesthetised with a litre of wine chugged in the graveyard (her state of mind not helped by news that an old boyfriend was married with a baby). The bender continued on the train to Dublin, as she polished off a six-pack and ended up unconscious on the steps of a stranger's house at 3am.

Read more: Girls behave badly in new RTÉ attempt at comedy

With her troubled work life, it was understandable Aisling would be vulnerable and even self-destructive. She was also justifiably appalled that Danielle (Nika McGuigan) had jilted her to party with an irritating new boyfriend (their every toe-curling PDA captured on Facebook). But would she really drink herself into a dangerous stupor and end up fighting off two gardai?

Nika McGuigan and Seana Kerslake in Can't Cope Won't Cope. Pic: RTE
Nika McGuigan and Seana Kerslake in Can't Cope Won't Cope. Pic: RTE

It's an important question because if the answer is “yes” then Can’t Cope ceases to be a wry portrait of 20-somethings in the big city and becomes something far darker: an unflinching chronicling of a young woman’s descent into alcoholism. 

That is no doubt a story worth telling, with women nowadays arguably as likely to develop a dangerous dependency on booze as men. But it is an inherently dark premise – and you wonder if the theme is an easy fit for a half-hour comedy.  As the series moves towards the closing strait the hope must be that Can't Cope Won't Cope rediscovers its initial lightness of touch and that Aisling’s problem with drinking doesn’t become a hangover for viewers.

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