Sunday 24 September 2017

Television: Great drama ends in a way we either love or hate

Aine O'Connor

Love/Hate (RTE1)

Ireland's Search And Rescue (RTE1)

Ireland's Black Widows (TV3)

Jews On Bikes (Sky Atlantic)

Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners (Channel 4)

Witnesses To War (RTE1)

Roy Keane press conference (various channels)

Such was the hype about the finale of series four of Love/Hate that even Ron Burgundy got in on the act. While he said "never have criminals sounded so rustic and charming" people all over Ireland and Twitter weren't that charmed and took to keypads around the nation to air their disappointment/bafflement and occasionally, approval.

If you're just getting into the boxset, look away now. Previous series have ended with a judicial death, arguably vast chunks of the audience never forgave writer Stuart Carolan for not reincarnating, or at least flashing back to Darren. This finale had death, two main-ish characters met grizzly ends, one of which had the Tweeters going long before the final credits. But it was death in the middle, not as a cliffhangy end.

Series four, the darkest and first to finish when the creators knew there'd be another, ended with a prelude. At the time, I was in the baffled gang. In hindsight I quite liked it.

***

Love/Hate can, according to Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh, characterise the relationship a lot of people have with her. Blathnaid had on her serious face and her anorak for Ireland's Search And Rescue (RTE1 Tuesday 8.30). Other people's woes make compelling viewing though Blathnaid just reminds me of RTE's unfortunate tendency to overuse the same seven or eight faces.

***

TV3 also served up a portion of other people's woes in Ireland's Black Widows. It's one of those series the station has become good at – telling stories with old news footage and commentary from journalists. This episode focussed on Catherine Nevin, Susan Christie and Sarah-Jane Delaney, the last-named the only one to escape the tendency to nickname female killers. There's undeniable prurient interest in the circumstances of what leads to the ultimate act, murder. Undeniable and slightly uncomfortable.

***

Jews on Bikes, a series about British Jews motorbiking the east coast of the US, made for some relief from death. They met women who had abandoned strict Jewish orthodoxy, had pints in a kosher bar and then a falling out over the consumption of crab in Baltimore. Apparently seafood isn't kosher if it doesn't have fins and scales.

***

Channel 4 had some Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners in which Ben, an incredibly nice but profoundly obsessive man sleeps on his floor so as not to crease his bed linen and can't have his children round for fear of the mess.

He was sent to declutter the home of compulsive upcycler Geri, while Sarah, who cleans 40 hours a week, was sent to fumigate the home of two brothers and a gaggle of germophobes were sent in search of a sandwich. A task that proved surprisingly challenging. Devoid of any psychobabble commentary, the facts spoke for themselves for strangely transfixing viewing. Whilst begging the question about all the chemical cleaners being potentially more harmful than any bacteria.

***

On Wednesday there was the Roy Keane press conference. Something about soccer, I believe. A lot of people seem to care. Martin O'Neill. Latvia. That's all I can say. Downton Abbey ended, fans will have to wait until Christmas Day for a special and the boxset. Over on MTV they endlessly screened the EMAs, I suppose they had to, having so foolishly scheduled it when Love/Hate was on.

It was all in such sharp contrast to Witnesses To War, (RTE1 Tuesday 10.40) because it brought home the contrast and the distance from which we debate poppy-wearing.

Interviewers Bryan Dobson and Donal Byrne were neither seen nor heard, it was just the extraordinary and deeply moving stories of men, now old, still emotional, of what they lived through during the Second World War. They described why they joined, what they saw, had to do and endure. Derryman Harry Callan met his first love, Katie, when, after a year and a half as a PoW the camp doctor and his family took a risk and offered kindnesses that still make Harry weep.

John Crisp recalled burying his best friend's ashes in a munitions tin, "you only knew who was who by the position of their ashes in the tank." Albert Sutton was called to look at a camp they had just discovered, full of endless horrors and "big, fat Germans" trying to pretend they were prisoners. "Right enough, that was Belsen," said Albert, "we had done something to stop it."

Kerryman John "Jack" Mahony was also a PoW, still affected all these years later by what he had lived through, but said "I'm glad I did what I did, I would do it again." They came back to Ireland and couldn't talk about what they had endured – it was deeply affecting to see them get a chance now.

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