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It’s hard to care who lives and dies in melodramatic soaps anymore

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Yasmeen and Stu on Coronation Street

Yasmeen and Stu on Coronation Street

Dr Eva's Great Escape was a tough watch

Dr Eva's Great Escape was a tough watch

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Yasmeen and Stu on Coronation Street

Hollyoaks Channel 4, Wednesday, 6.30pm

Coronation Street
UTV, Monday, 8pm

Dr Eva’s Great Escape
RTÉ One, Monday, 9.35pm

Fire and Blood: The Vikings in Ireland
RTÉ One, Sunday, 6.30pm

For those who still, for their sins, watch Channel 4 News, one of the most curious experiences is turning on a few minutes early and accidentally catching the end of Hollyoaks.

It’s impossible to know for sure what’s going on without watching the show regularly; and who can be bothered doing that? But it doesn’t matter.

What’s remarkable is just how outrageously melodramatic every single scene is. No one ever just talks to each other. Instead, they deliver their lines with an intensity that suggests they are in a constant state of emotional hysteria. It must be exhausting.

That the actors and writers on the show are, sorry to say, not the best at their craft, only makes the whole thing more ridiculous. It’s amazing it’s lasted so long.

Right now, some young fella called DeMarcus is on the run from the police on suspicion of having killed a man called Saul. Wednesday’s episode ended with a blonde woman, Grace, getting a gun and tracking down DeMarcus in order to kill him in a revenge mission.

It’s hard to care who lives and dies, though, when you don’t believe in any of these people.

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That something has gone very wrong with the soaps is best illustrated by Coronation Street.

That has always had its moments of high drama – who can forget evil Alan Bradley getting run down by a tram in Blackpool as he chased Rita Fairclough?

But it was always punctuated by humour and a joy in ordinary human interactions. Fair City still does that to a certain extent, but Corrie has not so much lost the plot as overloaded the show with too many of them. It’s just one histrionic storyline after another.

Poor Yasmeen is only just out of one abusive relationship and has now discovered that a man she’s been getting along with also once spent time in prison for killing a young woman. Murder needs to be rare in order to have the necessary dramatic impact. There just aren’t that many killers around. They certainly wouldn’t all be living in the same street.

Of course, Stu might turn out to be innocent, like he claims, but what are the chances that someone called Stu isn’t a bad ’un?

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Dr Eva's Great Escape was a tough watch

Dr Eva's Great Escape was a tough watch

Dr Eva's Great Escape was a tough watch

Dr Eva’s Great Escape was for everyone who’s on tenterhooks to know how yer one from Operation Transformation is getting on as she turns an abandoned 19th century hotel in the Algarve into a five-star health and weight loss spa with her husband.

But without wanting to be unkind, is anyone really that desperate to get an update on their progress since the first series of the programme aired five years ago – especially when it’s brought to you by Tyrone Productions, formerly responsible for such dubious televisual offerings as OMG! Jedward’s Dream Factory?

Theoretically, perhaps. There is a mini sub-genre of property shows about people upping sticks and heading to a new life far from the madding crowd in various European locations, and coming face to face with the age-old problem of budget versus ambition.

Some of them, such as Channel 4’s Help! We Bought a Village, can be quite good fun, despite the litany of disasters that invariably ensues. But fun just isn’t the first word that comes to mind when considering the Finnish nutritionist. Spending this long with her is seriously hard work.

There was also a focus on the couple’s failing marriage that didn’t up the entertainment factor either. As Dr Eva noted wryly: “Renovating a 100-year-old hotel is not exactly couple’s therapy.”

Eva and husband Wyatt had previously separated. This was their last chance to make a go of their marriage. But it all quickly fell apart again. At one point she went back to Dublin for two months, leaving him in Portugal to do the work. Her absence was never satisfactorily explained.

On a human level, one can feel sorry for them. Wanting to watch their marriage fall apart on screen is another thing altogether. Was it all just an extended ad for her spa now that it’s finally opened?

Fire and Blood: The Vikings in Ireland was billed as a docudrama. But it wasn’t really, was it?

A docudrama is generally defined as “a dramatised television film based on real events”, like that truly dreadful one on ITV about the Salisbury poisonings.

This was more like a run-of-the-mill history documentary featuring lots of extras in Viking costumes. And when I say lots, I really do mean lots. None of these people, who were mainly drawn from the Fingal Living History Society according to the credits, ever spoke. We saw their mouths moving but no words came out.

But at least half the show seemed to be made up of them re-enacting battles, all set to a relentless, pounding, headache-inducing rock soundtrack.

The programme had a fascinating story to tell about how new scientific discoveries have added to our understanding of the role played by a wave of Viking invasions in forging Ireland, concentrating on a ninth century king called Ivar who transformed Dublin into a hugely important port where hundreds of ships were docked full of slaves.

But beyond providing work for impressively bearded hipsters, do the programme makers really have so little faith in the audience that they are afraid to slow down and let historians steadily relate the narrative, rather than patronising viewers with silly gimmicks?

Having it narrated by Moe Dunford, star of the TV drama Vikings, just made it feel even more like theatre than a documentary.


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