Our reviewers watched last night's TV3 soap Red Rock debut:
Kirsty Blake Knox believes soaps have to evolve and adapt... and Red Rock has done just that:
Launching a successful soap has never been easy.
There have been memorable efforts - such as the BBC's 'Eldorado' - which not only failed dismally but cost the Beeb huge sums of money.
Even soaps that have enjoyed success - such as C4's 'Brookside' or RTE's 'The Riordans' - eventually fell out of favour and were scrapped.
In recent years, the popularity of long-established soaps like 'Coronation Street' have started to slide with ratings falling to an all-time low this year. Rather interestingly, 'The Antiques Roadshow' now pulls in a higher audience share.
We used to be transfixed by soap scandals; Miley and Fidelma's roll in the hay got the whole country talking but when was the last time Bela Doyle or Mondo sparked intense national debate?
Now, instead of turning to soap operas, we look to scripted reality shows to get our daily dose of schadenfreude. Who needs 'Eastenders' when you've got 'The Only Way is Essex'?
In order to survive, soap has to evolve and adapt; the cliffhangers and brooding stares are no longer enough.
Viewers still want scintillating storylines but with a standard of dialogue and acting that can rival big budget dramas.
Last night's episode of 'Red Rock' pretty much delivered that. The programme was sharp and slickly produced with plenty of intrigue, sex and strapping members of An Garda Siochana.
Based in a fictional seaside town, the series centres around two rival families.
Okay, there are plenty of recognisable characters; the good cop, the pushy detective, the over-bearing mother and the unfaithful husband. But while these characters may be stock, they never veered into the realm of schlock thanks to the exceptional strong cast of actors.
This is a modern soap drama that - on the basis of the first episode - has raised the bar for 'Fair City'.
Ed Power thinks that on paper, Red Rock sounded a reasonably engaging premise, but wasn't sure if this was delivered:
Sensationalism, tackiness, wobbly cardboard studios – such are the qualities we have come to expect of TV3 original programming. So it was a surprise just how radically Red Rock, the channel's much trumpeted new soap, departed from the stereotype. However, it was equally clear the veneer of classiness was an uncomfortable fit and the series will need to develop a pulse, and quickly, if it is to claim a place in the affections of viewers.
In its own mind, you suspect Red Rock sees itself as a cross between Fair City and The Wire (with a little Love/Hate tossed into the pot too).
In execution, however, it felt endlessly dreary, the script almost as dull as the slate sky looming over the fictional seaside setting (loosely modeled on Dun Laoghaire and Howth).
Nobody smiled, it was constantly overcast, the police procedural storyline was hard to warm to – if for no other reason than that all the gardai were interchangeably glum (except for the ruddy, property-obsessed fellow who spoke in what people from Ranelagh probably consider a 'country' accent).
Red Rock's muted tones and sluggish pacing were a surprise as the soap is regarded as TV3's secret weapon as it prepares for an existential smack-down with newcomer UTV Ireland.
With the upstart pinching ratings-winners Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Graham Norton etc, there's a sense that, unless TV3 comes up with a game-changing offering, it could find itself on the fast track to oblivion.
That may well be the case – for now, it is hard to see how Red Rock will make a difference either way.
The first episode simply didn't offer enough to hook the wavering viewer (as matters stand, 100pc of the potential audience).
It began with the discovery of an unconscious teen, battered and bloodied, near the shore. We learned he was a scion of the Kielys, local ne'er-do-wells led by Vincent (Paul Roe), a slick-haired patriarch whose chief occupation appeared to be slouching around his terrace house in gold chain and dressing gown.
From here the plot pivoted into a tale of two families. On one side, the vulgar Kielys, on the other the hoity toity Hennessys, presided over by fearsome Patricia (Cathy Belton) and also including prim solicitor Claire (an annoying Pandora McCormick) and Hollister-attired twerps David (Adam Weafer) and Michael (Jack Nolan).
It was Michael who had put Darren Kiely in an emergency room – he insisted he had lashed out in self defense, a claim not supported by forensics. There was a final twist, as Darren died in hospital, leaving Michael staring down the gun-barrel of a murder charge.
On paper, it sounds a reasonably engaging premise – especially by the slovenly standards of Irish soaps, where one character spilling another's pint is often what passes for a major plot point.
Alas, Red Rock has dishwater in its veins and the opening installment provided no compelling reason as to why you should tune in again. If this is TV3's last ditch defence against the march of UTV Ireland, an urgent rethink may be in order.