Just what our current affairs shows need: more hugs
TV REVIEW:IN THEIR PROGRAMMES on the economic wreckage, George Lee didn’t do hugs; nor did Richard Curran ever say, “Oh, don’t worry, hon, it’d be weird if you weren’t upset.” That’s what we’re used to from our TV chroniclers of the bust, but it’s not the approach of perky, wide-eyed Stacey Dooley. She is not an economist, nor is she an expert in fiscal meltdowns, but her programme, the deeply depressing Ireland: Lost and Leaving (BBC Three, Tuesday), still covered all the bases and captured the reality of the economic crisis for a cross section of young people.It’s part of a series in which the 25-year-old presenter explores how the recession is affecting her generation. Last week she covered the rioting in Greece; next week she will be in Japan, where signs encourage young people not to kill themselves because of money problems. Her take on Ireland had less overt drama but plenty of quiet personal tragedies, and she captured the sense of hopelessness felt by well-educated young Irish people who see no option but to emigrate. Her skill is that she fits in, not because she kept saying “I’m half Irish”, in her rather irritating high-pitched voice, but because she can talk to her peers and get them to open up.
In Tullamore she went to the pub with a group of young locals of whom only one, Tina, has a full-time job: she works at Aldi and has a degree in theology and sociology and a master’s in journalism. Dooley followed Ciara Costello, a newly qualified speech therapist, home to Galway to find out how she and her family felt about her imminent emigration to Australia, where she has secured a four-year contract. “I’ve never even had a phone contract for four years,” she said, looking slightly stunned by her predicament. Dooley was there sobbing at the airport to see Costello off: detached and cool aren’t her thing.
On Dublin’s northside she got into an apartment in Priory Hall, that shameful, unfit-for-purpose monument to the property boom. She got a guided tour from Graham and Sinéad, both of whom have had to leave the apartments for which they each paid €250,000.
“Doesn’t, you know, the council check that everything’s okay while they’re being built? I’m no expert or anything, but they do in London, I think,” Dooley said in her innocent-abroad way that often gets to the crux of things. “Ireland’s building controls are on a par with Namibia’s,” said Graham.
She did try to end the documentary on a positive note by meeting volunteers developing the Hireland concept, through which they hope to persuade every employer in the country to take on one person. But the overall effect was unexpectedly insightful – you don’t expect much from the generally dumbdocs on BBC Three – if relentlessly gloomy.
DERVLA KIRWAN DOESa convincing line in nice middle-class, slightly worried yummyish mummies, and she’s the best thing in this week’s big new drama series, Blackout (BBC One, Monday). She plays Alex, the wife of councillor Daniel Demoy (Christopher Eccleston), an alcoholic who is mired in council corruption and kills someone during a drunken blackout. Then he accidentally saves someone else’s life, becomes a local hero and is elected mayor. And he seems to have got away with it.
That’s the substance, but the director’s relentless emphasis on style ruins the thing: endless close-ups of Eccleston’s worried face, hyperbright lighting indoors, spooky blue-tinged night shots and a lot of mumbling. It’s a determinedly Everyman story but could be set in Sacramento or Scunthorpe. He’s a council official, and the council offices are vast, supermodern and anonymous; they live in a loft; it’s raining all the time; and, for a heavy-handed touch of noir, he arranges to meet the business contact that he kills down a dark alley. And, of course, it’s pouring rain.