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We're not Tallafornia dreamin'

Tallafornia: first look (tv3, sun) - love/hate (rte1, sun)

So far, TV3 has done a pretty good job of evaluating the expectations of its target audience and servicing them accordingly.

You could never accuse the channel of an excess of originality, not when its most popular series are The Apprentice, Take Me Out and Come Dine with Me, all extensions of established franchises (TV3's take on Family Fortunes is due soon). But while you might not particularly care for any of them, you can't argue with the polish and professionalism with which they're produced.

Tallafornia, though, is a different animal. This opening programme was essentially a teaser trailer-commercial for the series proper, which begins in January. If it was intended as a kind of showreel aimed as much at potential advertisers as viewers (the end credits included something called a "Brand Creative") then I reckon TV3 might have shown its hand a little early.

There's no point in being stuck-up about it; there's a proven market for this type of "structured reality" series, otherwise TOWIE wouldn't be as popular as it is. But even by the standards of the genre, Tallafornia is cheap, tacky, shoddy and extraordinarily badly-produced. It's so grotty it makes the Living channel look like PBS.

We were introduced to the seven protagonists -- three girls and four blokes -- who've been billeted in a house in Tallaght for four weeks. They're a predictable septet.

Kelly, a fashion model and "hostess at Lafayette's" who also "writes for a column" (pronounced "colume", like "volume"), looks like being the dominant (ie, predatory) female. "If I want to do something, I'm gonna do it," she trumpeted at the start. "All my life's work has paid off."

Natalie is doing a Bachelors Degree in Blondeness -- sorry, business studies -- at DCU and describes herself as "a girly-girl". Tallaght IT student Nikita (there's always a Nikita) is, if you can put it this way, the most working-class of the three and makes up for her lack of inches by being twice as loud as everybody else.

"I'd love to do modelling, only I'm too small and I don't have the right body," she said. I know, darling, I know -- tell me about it!

Still, at least the girls are physically different enough to tell apart in a crowd. The "guys" -- Dave, Jay, Phil and Cormac -- are interchangeably dreary gym bunnies with breasts bigger than the girls' and a sense of self-regard so all-consuming it's a miracle they don't have glass-shard scars on their six-packs from humping the bedroom mirror.

Rubbish can be entertaining if it's sufficiently lively. Tallafornia was, first and foremost, incredibly dull.

As the seven frolicked in a Jacuzzi, mucked around in bed together and went clubbing in the Plaza Hotel nightclub, there was a sense that everyone involved, both behind and in front of the camera, was trying just that little bit too hard.

First Look? Last look, more like.

With Love/Hate's most colourful and compelling character, psychotic gang boss John Boy (Aidan Gillen), having been dispatched with a bullet in the face by Darren (Robert Sheehan) in last week's surprise twist, you wondered where the story could go from here.

The answer seems to be: steaming into a third series. Last night's finale, which saw Nidge (the excellent Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) assume control and immediately assert his authority, a la Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather, was cracking stuff, full of tension and menace.

Stuart Carolan's outstanding script added another layer: the pernicious influence of the women in the background.

There was a gripping scene in which Darren's sister Mary (Ruth Bradley) chillingly eggs Darren on to get rid of Luke, who's been stalking her.

Darren and Nidge lure Luke up to the Dublin Mountains on the pretext of digging up John Boy's buried money, whereupon Nidge coldly executes him. Whatever tweaks Carolan performed between the first and second series have paid off. Love/Hate has been superb this season.

Roll on series three.

tallafornia: first look HIIII love/hate HHHHH