TALKING POINT: All the credit is due to Hulu and the BBC, no one else, writes Pat Stacey
There’s just no getting away from Normal People. It has been talked about everywhere – on television, in the newspapers (including several times in this column), on social media and on radio. Especially on radio.
There was the celebrated Liveline kerfuffle about the sex scenes, of course, a storm in a bra cup that flared for a day or two before that show’s listeners, like sniffer dogs in a butcher’s shop, alighted on a fresh morsel of offence – a “vulgar” Tampax television advert.
Normal People was also the lead topic on The Last Word’s weekly television slot with Jennifer Gannon and Joe O’Shea last Friday.
Presenter Frank Greaney, standing in for Matt Cooper, asked O’Shea, who had watched four of the 12 episodes and decided “it wasn’t quite my thing”, if the series was likely to do well internationally.
“It has been doing well on the international stage,” O’Shea said. “Hulu have it in the USA and it’s been a big hit in the UK.”
Well, of course “Hulu have it”. It would be a surprise if Hulu didn’t have it, since they and BBC Three were the broadcasters who commissioned the series from Irish production company Element Pictures in the first place.
Not that you’d know this from most of the saturation coverage the series has received here, which all too often gives the impression that Normal People is an RTE series.
Let’s lay this ghost to rest: it’s not an RTE series. RTE has nothing at all to do with it.
It played no part in commissioning it; it played no part in producing it; it can take no credit for its existence. All RTE did was show it, just as it shows countless other series it played no part in making.
You don’t have to be a Woodward or a Bernstein to work this out. All you need to do is read the end credits. There’s no mention of RTE, because – that’s right – it’s not an RTE production.
Nevertheless, misinformation continues to be spread around like manure.
One newspaper repeatedly described Normal People as “the smash hit RTE series”.
A headline in another called it “RTE’s Normal People”.
On Friday, a website owned by another paper reported Ivan Yates’ “scathing attack” on “RTE’s hit series” on his radio show The Hard Shoulder.
Yates added to the confusion by saying “the national broadcaster will do anything to get ratings”, which is a little like a pig accusing a dog of having no table manners.
You’d expect this kind of loudmouth, bull-in-a-china-shop shtick from Yates. What you wouldn’t expect, though, is how this nonsense has been allowed to perpetuate without challenge by anyone – not least RTE themselves.
It would be wrong to accuse the national broadcaster of claiming bogus credit for a series it didn’t make. That’s clearly not the case.
However, it hasn’t lifted a finger to dispel the myth either.
Last Wednesday, the day after the last two instalments of Normal People were shown on RTE One (they went out on BBC One the previous night), RTE issued a nine- paragraph press release raving about its popularity.
As well as 319,000 viewers watching the final episodes on the night, the series got 3.3 million streams on the RTE Player, smashing the previous record of 1.2 million set by Love/Hate.
You had to read all the way to paragraph eight to find any mention of Hulu and BBC Three.
You can’t call this dishonest, but it is deeply disingenuous at least.
Normal People was made mostly in Ireland by an Irish company using overwhelmingly Irish people, although one of the three writers, one of the two directors and one of the stars, Daisy Edgar-Jones, are British.
Is it an Irish series? Yes, of course it is, and one all those involved should be proud of.
But it’s not an RTE series, and that’s a very, very important distinction to make.