Wednesday 23 July 2014

Why Love/Hate has gone off the boil

Frank Coughlan believes the drama is just another cops and robbers show.

Frank Coughlan

Published 07/11/2013|14:02

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Killian Scott as Tommy, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Nidge and Peter Coonan as Fran

What has happened to Love/Hate? Has its success gone to its head?

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Or look at it another way, has Love/Hate ever had it so good?

The hype surrounding Series IV, currently running to great fanfare on RTE1 every Sunday evening, has attracted massive audiences, so perhaps Nidge and the crew are still doing the business.

After all, just shy of a million viewers have been tuning into this current series, whereas the opening salvo back in 2010 was drawing a modest 400,000.

All the classic components that made Series II and III so compelling would appear to  be in place. It has as much street cred as ever and the plots are as uncompromising as before.

Other than Breaking Bad, has there been a TV series as much talked about on these shores since Tony Soprano was cracking heads in New Jersey?

The success isn't merely domestic either.

Netflix is soon to offer the series to its subscribers and it has been a garnering good reviews since it popped up on STV and Channel 5.

And the first three series are about to air in South America, Asia and Australia.

What's not to like?

A lot actually.

What made Stuart Carolan's drama stand out in the dazzling second and third series wasn't so much its gritty realism and its unglamorous depiction of low-life crims and their nasty worlds, although all these aspects were compelling, but something even more alluring.

That was the toxic but compelling relationships that had been built up as the power shifted from John Boy (Aidan Gillen) to Nidge (Tommy Vaughan-Lawlor).  Abhorrent and despicable as some of the behaviour of these characters was - Darren (Robert Sheehan), Tommy (Killian Scott), Fran (Peter Coonan) and even Debbie (Susan Loughnane) - we cared enough for them to survive.

We were, despite ourselves, on their side.

That's a hard trick to pull off and it comes down to the quality of the writing, acting and characterisation.

Series IV though has steered, perhaps in an bid to chase bigger audiences or attract foreign buyers, towards more traditional mass-market territory.

Now it's as much about the crime as the criminals and there has been a very deliberate shift where our sympathies are being, either consciously or by default, redirected to view this world in more orthodox terms.

That is, Love/Hate has become just another cops n' robbers show.

To accommodate this new emphasis, some awkward loose ends have had to be tidied up. Danno (Jason Barry) was recently dispatched, even though his unfinished business with Nidge was one of the more absorbing storylines and hit-woman Lizzie's (Caoilfhionn Dunne) bizarre meltdown after the failed attempt on Nidge's life, seems a waste of another potentially magnetic character.

And was Debbie's tragic departure not more of the same, simple plot convenience?

Perhaps Carolan will pull all the strings together. Maybe this will all add up in the end.

But at the moment, Love/Hate is just about good guys and wiseguys. Black and white. The fascinating shades in between are gone. It no longer asks any interesting questions and seems more intend on giving predictable answers.

And there's enough predictability on TV as it is.

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