Friday 23 August 2019

We're silly teenagers in our passion for 'Love/Hate' - but that love can turn sour so easily

Runaway success: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as gangster Nidge in the hit series Love/Hate
Runaway success: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as gangster Nidge in the hit series Love/Hate

Sarah Caden

At the start of this year, when RTE began screening Haughey, John Murray referred to the series on his then morning show on Radio One. He mentioned various members of the cast and then referred to the fact that Bertie Ahern was played by "Elmo from Love/Hate".

Well, not the fact. Because that's not the fact. Elmo from Love/Hate was not playing Bertie. Laurence Kinlan was playing Bertie. And Laurence Kinlan played Elmo from Love/Hate. And he's an actor. And Elmo is not real, though our relationship with Love/Hate is so convoluted that we're easily confused. We have a love affair with it that goes beyond the rational, to the point that we have difficulty accepting that the characters aren't real. We sort of silly over it, like a gang of pubescent girls over One Direction, and we take the fact that it's off our TV screens as some sort of personal affront, as if we've been rejected by it.

Last week, it made front-page headlines that Love/Hate was to return to RTE One next year. This followed a short burst of online muttering that there would be a new series soon and that the lead character, now that Nidge is dead, would be Patrick, his Traveller would-be assassin. Because we don't know for a fact that Nidge is dead, but decisions like that have almost been taken out of Stuart Carolan's hands by the relentless national Chinese whispers around the show.

Such is our sense of ownership that we're now deciding the plot and plotting the show's return; creator and RTE schedule be damned.

A mere day after it was 'revealed' that Love/Hate would be back in 2016, this was denied by RTE. There are no plans for if and when it will be back. There is nothing to suggest, from anyone, that Patrick (played by John Connors) will be the star. But we think he should be, so there you go.

Now, if most of us met, in real life, any of the types who populate Love/Hate we'd run a mile. And even though we hear on the news every day that their ilk actually exist, move among us, shoot and assault each other in the street, we manage to have an almost naively adoring relationship with the show. Our favourite lines include Nidge threatening to throw acid in people's faces and Fran wiggling a dead man's skeletal finger for a joke. Ah, how we laugh, that hilarious psychopath, Fran.

And while it's stating the obvious to say that there's nothing funny about the real-life crime scene that Love/Hate depicts in on-screen drama, there's something weird about our moist-eyed affection for these monsters.

People who didn't watch the show, often because, weirdly, they didn't like seeing people terrorised and murdered, were regarded as sort of soulless. Imagine, how could anyone not be in love with Love/Hate? Could they have a heart at all?

But there's something odd about how we are in ostrich-like denial about real-life criminals among us, and at the same time determinedly fixed on Fran and Nidge and their gang as real people rather than actors.

As in, it's likely that we'll never really accept Peter Coonan (Fran), Laurence Kinlan (Elmo) and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Nidge) in any other role. Never mind as actual people who aren't criminals.

So, when we see actor Tom Vaughan-Lawlor on the Late Late being all middle-class and not at all Nidgy, we get all giggly. Like he's Nidge playing some sort of soft-palmed, lily-livered posh boy for laughs. We're sitting there in a state of excited anticipation thinking, "Go on, say, 'Fraaaaaan'."

And Vaughan-Lawlor would be spot on if he were sitting there wondering if Nidge was the best or worst thing ever to happen to him.

Because deep but giddy love like this can turn. A few too many bursts of pointless speculation, a few false alarms of imminent reappearance on the telly and the love could turn to hate. As the title suggests, there's a thin line when it comes to strong feelings.

Sunday Independent

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