Saint Patrick’s Day approaches which means it’s time for my obligatory Irish TV post. First off, before anyone comments that the Irish aren’t British, I want to preemptively inform you that I am well aware of the fact that the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK.
Nonetheless, when it comes to TV (which is my purpose for being here) there is a great deal of crossover of cast and crew members from both territories so their proximity is very relevant. Also, two of the shows I’m about to mention are set in or focus on characters from Northern Ireland which, in fact, is part of the UK.
Finally Saint Patrick’s Day is an excuse for everyone around the world to be Irish for 24 hours. Therefore on this auspicious annual occasion, let’s agree to be smitten with the Emerald Isle as well.
So as we participate in the traditional celebration of drinking green beer and eating corn beef and cabbage (an American dish, I’ve been told), I wanted to introduce you to a few Irish programs you may not have discovered yet. Indeed some of them are broadcasting their first series as we speak.
This means I will not be discussing the old standbys that everyone is familiar with such as Ballykissangel and Father Ted so don’t ask why I omitted them from my list. Mrs. Brown’s Boys, while newer, is well known to its many fans (of which I’m not one) so that one will only be acknowledged by a photo of Brendan O’Carroll as the fine lady herself.
Irish-themed television, whether it’s produced by RTE (Irish television), BBC or Sky among others, is making a noticeable splash here in the States. Have a look and see what’s in my telly pot o’gold.
Martin Moone (David Rawles) is an Irish boy with three domineering older sisters and a vivid imagination. These two facts explain all you need to know about twelve-year-old Martin and Sean Murphy, his imaginary friend played by Chris O’Dowd.
Filmed in and around Boyle in Roscommon County, Ireland, this sitcom is set in the late 80’s and early 90’s and is a semi-autobiographical account of O’Dowd’s own childhood. History making presidential campaigns and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall exist side by side with corrupt altar boys and the first stirrings of puberty in Martin’s young life. Series two of this award winning sitcom begins streaming on Hulu April 24th!
This gritty drama is set in modern day Dublin and focuses on a drug ring that operates very much like a dysfunctional family. Besides Robert Sheehan (Misfits) who plays Darren, the conscience of the gang, you may not recognize many of the members of this Irish cast, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. It is a riveting, albeit violent, look at post-boom Ireland’s criminal underbelly.
You can watch the first three series of Love/Hate on Hulu and Netflix. I warn you not to get too attached to any one character because no one is safe.
The premise of this sitcom is a quartet of Northern Irish twenty-somethings living in London, drinking too much and doing outrageous things. It’s been compared to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia if you want an idea of the tone. I’ve also read headlines calling it a “sick-com” and accusing the show of reinforcing negative Irish stereotypes.
Interestingly enough Lisa McGee, London Irish’s writer, is Northern Irish herself so it may be one of those situations where it’s not a case of racism as long as you’re part of the minority you’re making fun of.
I’ve watched two episodes of this comedy on YouTube and so far I don’t hate it. The male characters Packy (Peter Campion) and Conor (Ker Logan) are definitely the most likable while Niamh (Kat Reagan) is merely an airhead and Bronagh (Sinead Keenan of Being Human fame) is a foul-mouthed bully.
I was mainly intrigued by the expat community component of the story so I want to give the series a fair shake before I paint it with the same crude brush as Sunny in Philadelphia.
Last summer I told you about a serial killer drama called The Fall. I mentioned it was shot on location in Belfast and many of the cast were Northern Irish.
I also may have highlighted a rather fetching yet moody fella named Jamie Dornan who happened to play the murderer. This is not a spoiler! The killer’s identity is known to the viewer from the start. And if Dornan’s name sounds familiar, he’s since been cast as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey film.
Also starring Gillian Anderson and John Lynch, this suspenseful series investigates not only murder but police corruption as well. It is a slow burning thriller that really picks up as you go along. If you didn’t catch it the first time I recommended it, The Fall is still available to stream on Netflix.
This one is so new it has only just aired in Ireland a few weeks ago. Gabriel Byrne stars as Quirke, head pathologist of Dublin’s city morgue and an unintentional detective. Set in the 1950’s and based on the novels of Benjamin Black aka John Banville, it’s not surprising that our protagonist would find himself confronted with crimes. He does work in a mortuary after all; however, his investigations lead to eerie connections to Quirke’s own past.
Also starring Irish actors Michael Gambon and Colin Morgan, this crime drama is set to air on BBC One though I found no air date yet. It looks like the type of period drama that might find its way to American shores via Masterpiece Mystery, wouldn’t you say?
In 2010, a comedy troupe called A Diet of Worms produced a web series which was originally named A Taste of Home. Father Ted and IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan (who also happens to be Irish) collaborated with the Worms to turn their online show into a three-part miniseries renamed The Walshes.
Currently airing on RTE and BBC Four, this sitcom about a close-knit but less than cultured West Dublin family is touted by Linehan as being funnier and less “pantomimey” than Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Is that what you call a burn?
I like Linehan’s other projects so I hope we get a chance to stream The Walshes somewhere soon. I’ll keep you posted.
So if you have some downtime from the parades, pubs crawls and, let’s face it, possible puking, check out one of these Irish series. There’s a little something for everyone to watch now and some promising programs to look forward to as well. As the Irish say, “It’s good craic!”
Carmen is an American wife and mother of two college students who live away from home. With her yellow lab Malcolm by her side, she watches and writes about British television for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK I Learned from the BBC. Read more of Carmen’s posts here.