Sunday 23 November 2014

Eoghan Harris: Why Stuart Carolan is a television treasure

Creator of 'Love/Hate' and those who backed his iconic vision deserve the utmost credit, writes Eoghan Harris

Published 10/11/2013 | 01:00

The last episode of this season's Love/Hate screens tonight. Most of its success comes from its talented writer Stuart Carolan – and the courage of those who backed him.

The last title that Carolan would want to claim is that of national treasure. But he cannot avoid the title of television treasure. Because he is not just one of the most talented TV writers in the world, he is by far the most productive.

As a sometime screenwriter myself, I keep a sharp and envious eye on the fortunes of fellow members of the Writers Guild of America. So I know who is writing successful series like The Wire and Breaking Bad. And I know how Carolan compares with them.

What should give some of our critics pause for thought is that Carolan can't be compared with American writers at all. Carolan is the sole writer of Love/Hate. That makes him a wonder in a world where shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad are written by teams of up to 15 writers, working shifts under the direction of the chief writer or show-runner.

Carolan, by contrast, is both his own show-runner and the only writer of every episode of Love/Hate. He works absolutely alone. All of it comes out of his head. And that makes him a prodigy among television writers.

Let me nail my colours to the mast. I believe Love/Hate is as good, if not better, than The Wire and Breaking Bad. And only provincial cringe prevented some of our critics from seeing this from the start.

Some of the myopia stems from a lemming-like habit among media movers and shakers who laud The Wire and Breaking Bad as if they were beyond criticism. For my money The Wire is far too talky – and its fevered fans ought to mention its many debts to Hill Street Blues. And Breaking Bad hasn't a single woman of any substance.

We can also be proud of the Irish commissioning and production process which brought Love/Hate to our screens. As it is being re-made for American television, this will bring big word-of-mouth benefits to the reputation of RTE and Irish independent producers – who also deserve credit from local critics in three areas.

First, it took cold courage on the part of Jane Gogan, RTE's drama editor, to back a writer as hardcore as Carolan. If Love/Hate had failed she would have been fair game for every whinger in town. Now that the series has become part of the national conversation, Gogan is entitled to her garlands.

Second, the production and direction by the Octagon team consistently reach high standards on low money. Love/Hate looks fantastic on a modest budget of €600,000 an episode. That would hardly keep an American cable executive in aftershave.

Finally, Love/Hate offers both exceptional action entertainment and exceptional moral alertness. Carolan does not go in for pretentious Tarantino-style dialogue. He follows Elizabeth Bowen's advice that dialogue should drive the plot. "Action of dialogue, dialogue of action."

Enough already. Switch on and switch off. Let's enjoy the last episode.

Sunday Independent

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