I haven’t read the Tana French crime novels on which Dublin Murders (BBC1/RTÉ1) is based but, given the praise they’ve received, I’m assuming they’re more persuasive than this screen adaptation.
From the outset, almost all the tropes of contemporary crime drama were wearyingly on display. There was the murdered adolescent girl found in the woods.
There was the anguished detective with a dark past, and a colleague with a murky backstory of her own. There was the dysfunctional family of the dead girl, harbouring secrets and sinister men prowling around for whatever nefarious purposes.
The components of this scenario might well work on the page but as visualised here they came across as clichéd, with constant flashbacks to the boyhood trauma of investigating detective Rob, who’d barely escaped a terrible fate in these same woods 20 years earlier when two of his friends were abducted.
These flashbacks were not only distracting but also called attention to the improbable nature of his participation in this new case — the viewer being asked to believe that his garda superiors knew nothing about his teenage past, which had forced him to flee to England and assume another identity, and that he now neglected to inform them of these facts. Vetting procedures in An Garda Síochána must be very lax.
There was some nice interplay between Rob (Killian Scott) and colleague Cassie (Sarah Greene), but the heavies, about whom we’ve learned little so far, were stock figures, while Rob and Cassie’s foul-mouthed, sexist boss (Conleth Hill) was so cartoonishly over the top (“If I’d wanted female detectives to stand around looking pretty I’d have got one with bigger tits”) as to be ridiculous.
Indeed, after two episodes I’m already losing patience with a drama that can’t decide whether it wants to be a tricksy exploration of dark angst or is just content to get on with the story. I hope it makes up its mind by next week.
In the last few weeks we’ve had Goodbye House and My Big Day and Raised by the Village and now we have Pulling With My Parents. Who dreams up these lame-brained ideas for RTÉ programmes?
Pulling With My Parents (RTÉ2) is really the pits, though our national broadcaster clearly doesn’t think so — not just happy to screen it at prime time on Monday night but then repeating it the very next night, again at prime time, on its main channel. So much for public service aspirations.
The premise, as enunciated by Emmet Kirwan’s voiceover, is simple: “Allowing your parents full access to your dating apps” as they endeavour to find you a partner in life. “Nothing will be off limits,” Kirwan assured us, and indeed there were specific sexual requests in these dating apps that I can’t really reproduce in a family newspaper, though RTÉ had no such scruples.
As for the contestants and their families, my first thought was: have they no self-respect? But that was a silly query given that self-respect doesn’t really come into it when people will seemingly do anything to get their 15 minutes of media fame — how else to explain the success of the late and unlamented Jeremy Kyle Show?
The people in this week’s Pulling With My Parents weren’t of that sorry ilk, but the lure of being on television clearly outweighed any doubts they might have harboured about such matters as privacy and about not exposing their personal lives to public scrutiny and the likelihood of adverse comment.
Instead, they cheerfully submitted themselves to the demands of an entirely phoney set-up, in which not only had the parents to solicit dates for their sons and daughters but were then required to eavesdrop on the actual dates from a nearby “spy truck” — where they were also invited to provide various chat-up lines to their offspring via supposedly hidden earpieces.
You couldn’t make it up but somebody did. An end title informed the viewer that this pathetic nonsense was commissioned by RTÉ, and was “supported by your licence fee”. I’ll say no more.
French crime drama Spiral (BBC4) has returned for a seventh season with a reminder of how cop shows should be made.
All you need is a riveting storyline, a terrific script, razor-sharp direction and marvellous actors playing characters with whom you really want to spend your time. I trust the makers of Dublin Murders were watching.
This time around, Laura has just come out of rehab and is forced to work under dodgy former lover Gilou as they try to find out who has gunned down their beloved police chief.
Judge Roban is on the case, too, while corrupt lawyer Josephine is fighting off junkies in jail as she awaits trial for trying to kill her rapist.
If you haven’t watched Spiral (which has been running since 2005), you won’t be acquainted with these people, but if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll know them intimately and will be eager for their company again as they bungle their way towards the truth. It’s a super series.
El Camino (Netflix) is a feature-length sequel to Breaking Bad, though if you’re not familiar with that iconic series, you might be puzzled by what’s going on as the fleeing Jesse seeks to retrieve the money he’s owed and exact revenge on those who had made his life hell. There’s a lovely farewell cameo, though, from Robert Forster, who was so memorable in Tarantino’s best movie, Jackie Brown, and who died a few days ago.