Wednesday 24 January 2018

Television review: The Night Of - let's hope the rest of it arrives eventually

* The Night Of (Sky Atlantic)
* Claire Byrne Live (RTE1)

John Turturro in The Night Of
John Turturro in The Night Of
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

The nearest that a lot of people get these days to a meaningful relationship in the real world, is the commitment they make to a new drama series on Sky Atlantic.

Clearly it must come from America with a high reputation or we wouldn't even think of embarking on it, of devoting so much of our diminishing supplies of time and emotional energy to it. And then we have to decide the terms of the relationship, whether we will make a one-off marathon session out of it, skipping the usual TV formalities and diving into the boxset, or whether we will watch it week by week in the old-fashioned way, which today amounts virtually to a promise of marriage.

So the lavishly-praised The Night Of started last week, we have made our introductions, and the best I can say at this point is that I'm hanging in there. Though it was very decent in many respects, it didn't blow me away, in truth.

I felt I'd seen too much of this before - the vulnerable young man getting off with some beautiful but deeply damaged woman, who finds himself in a world of badness when he wakes up to find the woman has been savagely murdered? I think I've seen a bit of that before. I've pretty sure I've seen her before, with her irresistible exoticism, the danger she is to herself and to anyone else she encounters in the course of a big night out.

Then there's the urbane policeman who presents the traumatised young man with the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, trying to persuade him like the apparently civilised type that he is, just to admit everything - that guy's been around for a while too, if memory serves.

And much though I love John Turturro, in any role, I felt it was overly accidental that in this performance as a broken-down lawyer, he just happened to be in the police station when this most fascinating case presented itself, drawn to it almost by some sixth sense.

I suppose I wanted more, and I am told that in the next seven weeks, I will be getting more - which is handy, because without those assurances I might just have decided to move on to the next one.

I already knew Donal Lynch, my colleague on this paper, but I was still pleasantly surprised by his appearance in the audience of Claire Byrne Live talking about abortion.

I would not normally associate Donal with such matters, so it is much to the credit of Claire Byrne Live that they are finding a few fresh voices to make a contribution on this ancient Irish anomaly - the fact there is abortion in Ireland, which just happens to take place in England.

But I am also particularly interested in Donal's appearance on a show of this nature, because many viewers may have thought it was actually me there in the audience, and not him - because our names look and sound so similar, it is an easy mistake to make, and it has been made many times. We have been reading each other's mail for years now.

So it is very much in my interest, as well as his, that he performs well on these occasions. And indeed he did, thank God, though his position on abortion is perhaps more nuanced than my own. Like me, he is in favour of abortion on request, but in his concern about the lack of progress on the issue, he wonders if it may have something to do with "our" side not paying sufficient attention to the "humanity" of the foetus, the stopping of a heartbeat.

It was a good point, well made, yet I had a moment of anxiety when I saw him there, wondering if perhaps he had some other position on the subject that I didn't know about, that might be very different to mine.

If Donal is going to be speaking on television on matters of great moral complexity, will I now have to sit there wondering if he has had some drastic change of heart and is going to come out in favour of the death penalty or something?

Suddenly the stakes have been raised.

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