Tuesday 25 June 2019

Darragh McManus: Handful of actors to dominate our screens - yet again

Aidan Gillen in Charlie
Aidan Gillen in Charlie
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

It's a funny thing: we're constantly told that changing habits have made television schedules, times and dates meaningless, but the Big Autumn Launch remains a core broadcasting event. People may now consume TV whenever and however they like, but the big guns are still rolled out at this time every year.

TV3's launch is in a few weeks; yesterday was RTE's turn. The numbers are impressively large, anyway: 35 new shows, 24 more returning; over 600 hours of home-produced programming, including 90 hours of drama and 13 documentaries.

Those are the cold stats - what about the quality? First, a brief tangent: why do we seem to constantly see the same actors in dramas? RTE's flagship this year, Charlie, stars Aidan Gillen as Haughey and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as PJ Mara.

Both very talented, no doubt, but overly familiar to audiences. Vaughan-Lawlor also features in Love/Hate, another flagship show; Gillen, of course, starred in earlier seasons. RTE has a bit of a habit for doing this - at one stage Charlene McKenna appeared to be the female lead in every single drama for about three years - and you'd wonder why.

Yes, we have a small talent pool, but not so small, surely? And when these shows are being broadcast over the same period, there's the danger of actors and roles blurring into one. (We'll resist the urge to make a joke about Vaughan-Lawlor playing a ruthless, unscrupulous heavy, operating within a lawless gang of yahoos.)

That aside, Haughey - told in three 90-minute films - should be top-quality, and Love/Hate will presumably be itching to make up for a relatively flat 2013/14. The other big drama is Belfast-set thriller The Fall: these "suave genius serial-killer" stories leave me cold, but plenty of people love it, and Gillian Anderson is always great.

In documentary the stand-out offering is Donal Og Cusack: Pride, in which the Cork hurling legend examines how life in Ireland has changed for gay people since decriminalisation in 1993. He's an intelligent, articulate, courageous guy; his move to TV feels logical and natural.

Close to Evil - concentration camp survivor Tomi Reichental's quest to meet one of his prison guards - looks grimly compelling. We Need to Talk About Kevin - the truly bizarre story of Kevin McGeever's disappearance - looks compelling for different reasons.

The Insiders should be worth a gander, as it explores various seminal moments in Irish history. And in Arts, I'll be watching The Brendan Boy, where actor Adrian Dunbar tries to separate the Behan myth from the man.

Irish Independent

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