Is Raw the natural successor to The Clinic? Hardly. You'd be hard pressed to find two RTE drama series less alike. Which makes the decision to yank Raw, back last night for a second series, out of its old, Monday night slot on RTE2 and parachute it into the space recently vacated by the axed medical saga look all the more curious.
Perhaps someone in RTE decided that the addition of Aisling O'Sullivan, who starred in five series of The Clinic, to the regular cast of Raw would be the hook that recaptures those viewers left feeling disgruntled after the abrupt cancellation of The Clinic.
If so, they've probably made a mistake -- not because The Clinic audience is an immovable object, immune to change, but because Raw is plainly a bad fit for the most middle-aged night of the week. For better or worse, experience and ratings show that Sunday is ideal for medical and period dramas; for easygoing pastoral tales of village doctors and small-town vets; for sturdy coppers solving grisly murders among the moneyed classes.
Shoehorning a series that was clearly conceived to appeal to viewers in the 18-30 bracket into Sunday nights smacks of desperation. It feels like RTE, facing bare coffers, took its best available asset -- an expensively produced series that was already in the can -- and fed it to the hungriest spot in an already starving schedule.
Raw itself is also looking pretty desperate. Like many brash, self-consciously 'modern' (ie featuring lots of sex'n'drugs'n'swearing) drama series launched off the back of the fleeing Celtic Tiger, it's dated remarkably quickly. With Dublin's once prosperous restaurant scene shrivelling by the day, Raw seems weirdly out of sync with the real world.
The last series ended with the titular restaurant closing down -- a natural conclusion if ever there was one. The new one kicks off with new owner Fiona (O'Sullivan) reopening it and promptly rehiring all the old staff, including the fiery Jojo (Charlene McKenna), her moody brother Shane (Keith McErlean) and the volatile Aussie chef Geoff (Damon Gameau).
Needless to say, all the old tensions immediately bubble up again, like a saucepan of soup left too long on the cooker. It doesn't so much pick up where the first series left off as simply rehash the same ingredients all over again. And it tastes stale.
Philip Schofield is indestructible; impervious not only to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but also to changing fashions. He was there in the 80s, playing straight man on children's TV to a glove puppet called Gordon the Gopher. And he's here still, seemingly ageless, playing straight man to muppets on Dancing on Ice and All-Star Mr & Mrs. He is the shiny, unlined face of a New World Order of TV Mediocrity. In the event of a global nuclear holocaust, the only ones to survive will be the cockroaches -- and Philip Schofield.
TOMORROW Pat reviews: Your Bad Self (RTE2) and FlashForward (RTE2)
All-Star Mr & Mrs/Dancing on Ice *