Thursday 18 October 2018

Amy has nothing to laugh about in return of RTÉ's legal drama...

Law unto herself: Amy Huberman's Tara (centre) is even more mopey and woebegone than in the first season of legal drama Striking Out
Law unto herself: Amy Huberman's Tara (centre) is even more mopey and woebegone than in the first season of legal drama Striking Out

John Boland

The second season of Striking Out (RTÉ1) began by expecting us to recall what all the characters had been up to a year earlier, which was somewhat presumptuous given that the first season had been so lame I'd entirely forgotten most of it.

Yet here in the opening scene we were meant to remember that café owner Pete had been having a bit of a romance with young lawyer Tara, that weaselly Eric had been cheating on her just before their planned wedding day and that petty criminal Ray had been incarcerated on trumped-up charges.

Ah yes, Ray, a reformed fraudster and drug dealer whom Tara had employed to be her office manager despite the fact that the charmless young criminal had no qualifications whatsoever for the job. But that's idealistic lawyers for you and much of this week's episode consisted of Tara trying to get him freed. "I want Ray out", she announced. "Just concentrate on getting Ray out."

This was achieved by hotshot English barrister Vincent in a courtroom performance as flamboyant as it was unlikely, but then everything about Vincent was unlikely - not least the fact that, when he's not helping Tara out, he's chairing some government tribunal or other.

Did I mention private investigator Meg, or should that be Mystic Meg given her supernatural ability to conjure up crucial evidence out of nowhere? Well, she's now sided with the baddies (Eric and his dastardly dad), though also doing bits of work for Tara on the side. It's all very confusing.

There was a subplot involving a saintly African woman called Promise who was in love with even more saintly farmer Daniel and whom Tara had to save from deportation - just as she was being shunted on to a plane, wouldn't you know.

And there was also the dialogue concocted by screenwriter Rob Heyland, featuring such bon mots as "tragic futility is the thinking man's babe magnet" and "there's no point in being born with a silver spoon if you're not going to shove it up people's arses from time to time". In short, the series is tosh, a soap opera masquerading as a legal drama, riddled with implausibilities, and with Amy Huberman's Tara even more mopey and woebegone than in the first season. This actress has revealed good comic chops in other roles, but there's nothing to laugh about here.

There weren't any laughs, either, in the third episode of McMafia (BBC1) but at least you felt that you were in the hands of people who knew what they were doing and that this slow burner of a global crime thriller was actually going somewhere. As were the latest two episodes of Spiral (BBC4), in which Laura and her Parisian police team screwed up spectacularly. I can't wait for tonight's instalments.

I was less taken with the first episode of Hard Sun (BBC1) in which two London cops probed the murder of a computer geek who plummeted off a high-rise. Could it be related to a government cover-up about the earth's imminent extinction by an overheating sun? Why bother finding the killer when getting drunk seems a better option?

Matters weren't helped by the playing of Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn as the cops. Do I really want to spend any more time in their surly company?

Micko (RTÉ1) invited me to spend an hour with former Kerry football manager Mick O'Dwyer, but this essentially was a film for the already converted rather than a rugby-loving jackeen like myself.

Until almost the very end, O'Dwyer's was the only voice you heard and it was sometimes hard to decipher - the 82-year-old acknowledging that decades of shouting at players had put a dent in his vocal cords.

The film took us through his illustrious playing days (four All-Ireland wins) and his even more illustrious coaching career (eight All-Irelands) but it revealed curiously little about the man, with no more than a passing tribute to his late wife and a few references to his sons.

Satisfaction blurred with self-satisfaction as he looked back on his life, which was all to do with his footballing achievements. "I've enjoyed every moment of it", he said. "I wouldn't change it for the world. Wasn't I lucky to be born in Kerry?"

And he reserved his praise for Kerry colleagues. Pat Spillane was "a tremendous player" who'd "go through a brick wall for you", while he marvelled also at the on-field exploits of Eoin 'Bomber' Liston. But he took defeat badly - Offaly's 1982 victory over Kerry was "like a death in the family". Bill Shankley, with his insistence that soccer was more important than a matter of life and death, would no doubt have agreed with such sentiments, but that's fanaticism for you.

Marty Morrissey, who's a fine GAA match commentator, might agree, too, though in the second season of Dancing with the Stars (RTÉ1), he's keen to show us that there's more to him than mere sporting expertise. And he's aided and abetted in this by RTÉ, which over the past couple of years has been intent on persuading us that he's now a national treasure.

Good luck with that, though at least Marty himself was savvy enough to be self-deprecating after lumbering around the dance floor. "Why am I doing this?" he mused and the viewers could only concur.

Comedian Bernard O'Shea was another lumberer, and the star of this opening show was undoubtedly Nathan Carter's 19-year-old brother Jake, who had all the oomph, agility and, yes, charm that the producers could have wished for. A pity, then, that hosts Amanda Byram and Nicky Byrne are so stilted.

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