Dail on the Dole review - 'here, for once, is a TV3 broadcast crying out for extra sensationalism'
Published 20/04/2015 | 22:00
The problems with Dail On The Dole began with the title. You may, as I did, have assumed this latest reality show from TV3 would see rich-lipped elected representatives slumming it, Gwyneth Paltrow-style, on the breadline.
A delicious panoply of calamity seemed to beckon – you had visions of Richard Bruton attempting to brew a cuppa by candlelight, Gerry Adams trying to wedge a buggy into a malfunctioning lift as he was taunted by urchins on stolen bikes, Lucinda Creighton scrimping for a Happy Meal.
The reality was rather more mundane. In the first of four episodes Fine Gael Dublin TD Catherine Byrne was introduced to single mother of two Laura.
They nattered a bit, Laura brought Catherine on a grocery run to Lidl and showed her the mould on the ceiling of her flat.
Without question life is tough for Laura and she is to be commended for bravely raising her daughters in trying conditions – and yet, her struggles were perfectly banal, with little dramatic potential.
Fish-out-of-water programmes of this nature have a storied history in the UK. But part of the entertainment is owed to Britain's social divide: the gaping chasm between the ruling elite and a vast underclass.
Thus we are treated to the genuinely hilarious spectacle of, say, Michael Portillo trying to fry a sausage in a hellish two-up, two-down in Oldham.
However, the concept doesn't necessarily translate to Ireland because, for all their flaws, our politicians generally do not belong to a virtual aristocracy cosseted in an ivory tower (not that they are necessarily any better at their jobs).
Indeed, there was little to suggest that Byrne, a flinty native of Inchicore, was venturing outside her comfort zone as she met Laura and her sister and listened to their complaints.
Endlessly earnest, Dail On The Dole didn't appear to know why it existed.
It certainly wasn't to yield unintentional comedy. Had that been the case surely it could have drawn on the Dail's admittedly modest repositories of truly posh public representatives, and had fun isolating them in environments entirely beyond their comprehension.
Instead, we were presented with a glorified TD's clinic, Laura setting out a laundry list of complaints, Byrne, in familiar Irish politician style, nodding sympathetically and pledging to put in a call to the council.
Here, for once, was a TV3 broadcast crying out for extra sensationalism.