The first episode of RTE2’s new reality TV show, ‘Connected’ opens with 20-year-old law student/model Nicole McQuillan prancing around her kitchen in her underwear.
Her boyfriend, Noel (ten years her senior) comes in and berates her for being semi-naked on camera, “big f***ing nipples hanging out”.
It soon becomes apparent that Nicole and Noel don’t have the easiest of relationships. In fact, none of the women featured in ‘Connected’ (we meet three this week, three more next week) are having an easy time.
Venetia Quick is a 40-year-old radio producer and mum of three who is struggling to pay the bills since her husband Martin’s nightclub business wheezed its last with the Celtic Tiger.
We see them juggling payments to UPC and Airtricity and it’s clear that times are tough, although they have enough left in the coffers to go on a rare, we’re told, night out to celebrity haunt, House, on Leeson St.
Times are also tough for Elayne Harrington (26), aka rapper/actress Temper-Mental Miss Elayneous, who has been homeless on and off since the age of 17 (the latest stretch for the past 14 months) and has finally moved into an apartment.
The programme was shot by the women themselves on handheld cameras over a period of 10 months, so there are lots of shaky facial close-ups, blurring, and patches of muffled sound.
Production values aside, however, it makes for compelling viewing.
Aptly billed as a ‘reality soap’ each episode is a digestible half an hour but even in that scant amount of time the programme makers have managed to give a layered impression of each woman who, on paper, and initially, seem very one-dimensional and perhaps not even that likeable.
However, moments of vulnerability - from Nicole’s gulping sobs over her boyfriend’s behaviour, to Venetia and Martin’s argument about bills, to Elayne’s glossy-eyed admission that she’s not as resilient as she seems – ring true, and are affecting.
“When I was a bit younger, I was able to bounce back going through stuff,” says Elayne, “But this time hit me hard. I’m still recovering from that trauma, putting on the street smarts, putting on the mask. No I can afford to put them down a little bit.”
Between this diverse trio, and presumably the three more we meet next week, there’s much to relate to, and you may find yourself rooting for them, even by the end of the very first episode.
The first episode is available on RTE Player, whilst the second, third and fourth run consecutively Tuesday 23 to Thursday 25.
Not once during the interview do either of us mention the "p" word. It just doesn't seem appropriate. Certainly, we talk about stigma, discrimination and the 'Nordic Model', but where sex for money is concerned - what we would call prostitution - Kate McGrew is adamant that it's a fair pay back for years of capitalist patriarchy.