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Programme of the week: Raw

When 'Raw's first episode was aired in September 2008, the storm clouds of recession were gathering but had yet to hit. As a result, the busy restaurant featured in the show bore all the flashy signs of the Celtic Tiger -- fancy ingredients, histrionic staff and some pretty obnoxious customers.

But, two series on, things have changed dramatically. At the start of series two, pragmatic entrepreneur Fiona Kelly (Aisling O'Sullivan) rescued 'Raw' from bankruptcy, and, as this new series begins, she's finding ingenious ways of coping with the recession.

For a start, she has decided to take on a dashing new front-of-house manager called Ray Cronin (Padraic Delaney). A former restaurateur who's fallen on hard times during the recession, Ray arrives in Raw with a big reputation and a bucketload of charm, and it isn't long before sexual tension starts to simmer between him and Fiona.

But old Ray is not what he seems, and he has a darker agenda than romance on his mind.

Fiona's sister Kate (Kelly Gough) is also in a spot of difficulty. She and Fiona have had a troubled relationship, but they've buried the hatchet and Kate is now a regular barmaid at Raw.

But, unbeknown to her sister, Kate has begun a dysfunctional affair with a dodgy businessman called Larry Deane (Conor Mullen) who likes to live the high life.

When Kate decides to steal money from the restaurant till to fund her social life and Ray catches her in the act, things turn sour.

One of the most distinctive characters in the show is Jojo Harte, a fiery chef from Derry played by Charlene McKenna.

As the new series begins, things finally seem to be going Jojo's way as she and Dylan (Paul Reid) are still going strong and have bought their first house together.

Bobby (Liam Garrigan) and Dylan are making a success of their bar and Jojo is well established in Raw as Geoff's (Damon Gameau) number two in the kitchen.

Life can't seem to get any better for Jojo. But when old feelings for Bobby re-emerge, she finds herself in an impossible predicament and her new happiness is threatened.

To add to her other worries, Jojo's more than a little put out when her glamorous cousin Ellen (Marcella Plunkett) arrives back in Dublin from New York, where she's been training as an architect. Jojo's not impressed when Ellen quickly charms her way into the gang. And Ellen soon causes a stir when she takes a shine to Bobby and spills some Harte family secrets.

Geoff and Pavel (Krystof Hádek), meanwhile, have put their past differences behind them and remain the best of friends.

After Geoff gets badly assaulted in a robbery at Raw, a handsome doctor called Jack comes into their lives. While Geoff wrestles with post-traumatic stress, new romance blossoms between Pavel and Jack.

Written by Derry writer Lisa McGee, 'Raw' is fast-moving, slickly edited, and the drama is punctuated by music from Bell X1, The Chapters, Gemma Hayes and Cathy Davey.

It's a slick product all in all and, like the fictional restaurant at its core, has managed to survive the rising tide of recession.

Weekend Magazine