Tuesday 25 October 2016

Clinic isn't the cure for RTE's ills

Published 18/10/2003 | 00:11

Just to ensure our attention, The Clinic, RTE1's new eight-part medical drama, began with a chase and followed it with a shag.

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The early-morning shag takes place in a trendy docklands apartment. After the young woman noisily orgasms, she rolls off the guy and gets dressed. Then she introduces herself, as one does. "I'm Susie," she offers, formally shaking hands. "I'm Dan," he replies.

A couple of minutes later, Susie turns up at the clinic to start her day's work as a homeopath. Forget all you ever heard about randy nurses - homeopaths are obviously the medical profession's real goers.

Meanwhile, Dr Ed has just returned from chasing a drug addict, who has stolen a prescription pad, through the streets of Dublin. Dr Ed does this three-mile run in his underwear and bare feet, as one also does, and then he lets the addict off with a reprimand, as is also standard medical practice.

Inside the clinic, head receptionist Fiona is lusting after Dr Ed who, unfortunately for her, is not only married but married to Dr Cathy, who runs the enterprise with him. Fiona's been working with them for years but, oddly, no one has ever noticed her infatuation with Ed, even though she's plainly as loopy as Rebecca de Mornay in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle or Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female.

However, they know something is wrong with her because they send her to talk to doleful counsellor Patrick, who also works for them and operates from an upstairs room in the same building. Is that common medical practice too?

The building, by the way, is a handsome regency pile in its own grounds and would fetch at least ?3m in today's market, which makes you wonder why Dr Ed (who, incidentally, looks like an eerie amalgam of Nigel Havers and Hector O hEochagain) has an accent straight out of Fair City and why most of the patients seem to come from Darndale.

Anything else I should tell you? Oh yes, Dan, who two hours earlier has been bonking Susie and who has told her he works for a record company, turns up at the clinic where, what do you know, he's just been hired as a plastic surgeon. Won't Susie be surprised when she sees him? You bet she will.

Then there's Mrs Fleming, a cranky widow who has a flat somewhere in the clinic and who's such a tiresome old biddy that Ed and Cathy would love to get rid of her but they haven't the heart, just as they couldn't bring themselves to shop the druggie thief. These people really are too good for this world.

By the end of the episode Fiona has become as bonkers as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, though no one around her has yet twigged the fact. Funny people, medics.

Will I be watching the rest of this series? No, I won't. As I've suggested, its concept hasn't been properly thought out, its characterisations don't ring true and its dialogue is both stilted and clichéd. The actors do their best with the material they're landed with and perhaps some viewers will be lulled by the familiarity of watching performers who've made their mark in other drama soaps - Aisling O'Sullivan from Bachelor's Walk, Geraldine Plunkett from Glenroe, Peter Hanly from Ballykissangel and Lorraine Pilkington from Monarch of the Glen. But for me these associations only point up the hollowness of what they've now found themselves in.

I don't quite know what RTE1's three-part documentary series, Bombers, is about. Yes, it's about the use of the bomb in Northern Irish terrorism since the late 1960s and, yes, it's responsibly made and is both informative and disturbing, but I'm not sure if I get the point of it.

Perhaps its salutary to be reminded of the carnage and misery wreaked on individual families and whole communities by cold-blooded murderers from both sides of the political divide, but surely after three decades of slaughter no one on this island needs such remindings. And so I can't really see what purpose is being served here beyond the opening of old wounds.

Speaking of slaughter, I haven't yet seen Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, and I'm not sure if I want to - with all the unspeakable acts of violence taking place in the world, do I really need to watch an orgy of beheadings and other dismemberments served up for thrills?

Well, performance artist Amanda Coogan loved it. She was on The View (RTE1) with Fintan O'Toole, who saw the movie as "a porn film in which violence has replaced sex", the orgasms coming in sequences of Uma Thurman being drenched with the blood of beheaded adversaries.

Fintan confessed himself unhappy with such images, but not Amanda, who raved that it was "a very sexy film" and that "chopping off the heads and chopping off the limbs and this orgasmic spurt of samurai blood - it's just gorgeous". Tell that to the people of Rwanda, Amanda.

And perhaps someone should ask the makers of the current Lynx deodorant ad what they're on about. In a week in which we've been hearing about the fondness of Premiership footballers for the group-sex "roasting" of young women ("you know, stuffing them like a chicken," as one practitioner gleefully explained), the Lynx ad ogles a succession of semi-clothed young women catering for men as they stroke themselves and lower their camisole straps before delivering its punchline: "The girls are ready. Are you?"

This week's Prime Time (RTE1) pursued the former head of Maynooth College, Michael Ledwith, to the outskirts of Seattle. The cleric fled there after a series of sex allegations were made against him by students and seminarians under his charge. Reporter Adrian Lydon outlined the background absorbingly and then caught up with Ledwith in a parking lot, but all he got were a few flustered protestations about "horrendous accusations" and "scurrilous reports" that he couldn't talk about as he was "under legal advice".

He teaches now at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, Ramtha apparently being a 35,000-year-old warrior who transmits his wisdom through the school's spiritual leader, a 52-year-old peroxide blonde. You couldn't make it up.

As for the way the hierarchy here dealt with the complaints, their shabby behaviour has left a stench that even Lynx couldn't obliterate.

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