Patrick Freyne: Will 2017 be the year television finally fulfils its destiny?

From the end of childhood (and possibly RTÉ) to the terrible hatching of a glowing orange homunculus, television is going to be great in 2017

 

Striking Out begins (on January 1st)
The ever-excellent Amy Huberman plays a solicitor who quits her fiancé and job to become a rogue lawyer for hire – which describes all Irish lawyers really, if international norms and pricing structures are to be believed. But in the absence of reforming the legal profession (you litigious scamps!), I’m sure Huberman will be brilliant and this legal drama might replace Love/Hate in our hearts, minds and box of lazy journalistic references.

RTÉ cancels childhood
Caught between the infantilisation of their parents’ generation and the upcoming Hunger Games (February), today’s children never had much of a future. So RTÉ is ahead of the game in attempting to outsource children’s programming. Okay, the public execution of Socky has been put on hold until the New Year, due to some union-mandated employee consultation, but mark my words, come Trumptember, children will be where they’re meant to be: up our chimneys and manufacturing our iPhones. Meanwhile other enemies of the people such as Bosco and Zippy and Bod (I may be getting my eras and networks wrong) will be redeployed to read the news and host chat shows and dance on reality TV.

RTÉ cancels self
“Will I dream, Dave?” says RTÉ, as “Dave” (what RTÉ calls the licence-paying public) shuts it down due to the fact they can get their drama from Netflix, their comedy from the universe and their news from their racist uncle on Facebook who likes to post links to websites called fluoridetruth.com.

Yes, RTÉ faces existential threats in 2017 that reportedly mean it may have to leave its ancestral land in Montrose and tour the country solving crimes in the mobile broadcasting unit. As a liberal-media wonk who has had actual sex dreams about wasting your hard-earned licence fee on Joe Duffy’s salary, I think eviscerating RTÉ would be a bad thing.

TV3 ascends
Reinvigorated by money from a kindly benefactor (Great Uncle Virgin Media), TV3 absorbs UTV Ireland into its mass and reemerges as a daddy bear (TV3), mammy bear (Be3) and baby bear (3e), ready to gorge on advertising porridge. And something about RTÉ being Goldilocks. I am terrible at metaphors.

Patrick Bergin joins the cast of ‘Red Rock’
Film actors dropping into soaps is nothing new. Ian McKellan did a post-Magneto stint on Coronation Street (because he was a fan) and James Franco appeared on General Hospital (for his own weird reasons). In other news, R2D2 will be appearing on Fair City as local wheeler-dealer Jimmy “The Hat” Boylan.

Irish ‘dancing’ with ‘the stars’
I anticipate that I’ll spend a lot of 2017 drinking gin while watching Des Cahill dancing badly, a privilege formerly only appreciated by his closest relatives and RTÉ bosses during pay negotiations.

What can we expect from this Gaelicised version of the celebrity hoofing franchise? Will Hughie Maughan scream at people like a distressed Vietnam veteran? Will Amanda Byram perform the emergency plastic-surgery procedures she learned on televisual war crime The Swan? Will Des Bishop* show that he truly is a bishop, and that his religion is “the groove”? There’s only one way to find out. Ask me the next day. Or watch it. You could, I suppose, watch it.

*Pitch for TV show - Das Bishop, a Germanic religious figure, solves subaquatic crimes.

24 returns . . . sort of
More culturally insensitive torture-romps from the world of Jack Bauer, although this time not featuring Bauer himself because he’s been named head of the CIA by Donald Trump

“I swear to God, I’m a liberal-leaning actor named Kiefer Sutherland!” he weeps. “Please let me go back to my family. I miss them.”

“Classic Bauer,” chuckles Trump as he flings the terrified actor from a black-ops plane into China.

And so in 24: Legacy, it is Bauer-surrogate Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) who must torture those pesky terrorists out of destroying Our Way of Life ™. If it’s an entirely accurate depiction of US foreign policy, he will be accompanied by a scrappy robotic sidekick named Drone-ald and an invisible alt-right blogger that only he can see (thanks to the Facebook algorithm).

Taken gets a TV adaptation
To have your family cinematically kidnapped three times is a misfortune, but to have it happen implausibly every week is bound to be incredibly funny.

“Why do people keep kidnapping my family!?” cries Bryan Mills (his hilarious catchphrase), the ultraviolent and vengeful husband and father of serial kidnap victims. “And why is my face different?” Yes, he once had the lugubrious face of Irishman Liam Neeson but he has been rejuvenated by trauma into generic hunk Clive Standen).

Never change, Mills (except your face, obvs). Thanks to remakes, reboots and spin-offs, television need never have another idea again if it doesn’t want to.

Star Trek returns to television
There are a many great science-fiction programmes right now, from the dystopian 3%, the Douglas Adams adaptation Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and the spatially operatic The Expanse (all available on Netflix) but the original of the species is returning as Star Trek Discovery, starring The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green. We usually get the Star Trek captain who best reflects our times. So will we get a postmodern, philosopher such as Jean-Luc Picard or a Kirk-like swinger who prefers “erotic diplomacy” and brings peace to the universe one sexy alien at a time?

More chat!
ITV is moving the News at Ten in order to dabble in a US-style entertainment chatathon with The Nightly Show, beginning with temporary host and safe-pair-of-hands David Walliams. Meanwhile RTÉ has opted for the jam-stained paws of feckless Tommy Tiernan, returning with his eponymous “chat show with a difference”. The “difference” is that Tiernan will be totally unbriefed, which sounds to me like they’re making a virtue out of recent cutbacks.

My own chat show (I’ve just devised it) will involve me interviewing confectioners on a train. I call it the Chat-and-Nougat Choochoo (note for the editor: on the website do you think you could put audio of a drum-roll here?).

More superheroes!
The most interesting new superhero-related show in 2017 is Powerless, which is about an insurance firm that specialises in super-heroic collateral damage. I find this appealing because “powerless” is how I feel amid the onslaught of superhero programmes. I used to like superheroes. Now I wonder why an adult man needs to filter the world’s problems through the prism of fantastical characters created for children in post-war America? Something about US cultural hegemony and late capitalism, no doubt.

Netflix’s superhero stories, in particular, have ambitiously subversive subtexts. Do you want a show about racism? For that there’s Luke Cage (ultimately disappointing). Misogyny? For that there’s Jessica Jones (brilliant). Urban renewal and leather fetishism? For that there’s Daredevil (ridiculous).

In 2017, we will deal with whatever social ills Iron Fist grapples with (probably the problems of having an iron fist and maybe, I don’t know, litter?). And then this quartet of social justice warriors will band together as The Defenders in order to fight Galactus or hate speech or low self-esteem. And I will watch it, safe in the knowledge that my generation never has to fight in a war or catch our own food.

Or do we?

Trump’s inauguration

Flanked by men’s rights activists in frog masks, Steve Bannon and the rest of the League of Evil march out rolling a large black egg. Before our eyes, a crack appears in its surface and some foul-smelling smoke emerges. Steve gasps. The crack widens and a tiny finger pokes out. Steve’s craggy hands rise to his cracked lips in mock surprise. Then a little fist covered in slime emerges. Steve pretends to faint. At last a glowing orange homunculus is spat from the shattered shell and lies mewling in goop and hereditary money.

Trump’s brain is swiftly wrenched from its former host body and implanted in the empty Trumpkin. Then a yellow gasping thatch of hair drags itself out of the shell and clasps itself to the head with a long groan. “Yuuuuuge,” it groans.

But what of the dying Trump husk?

Well, they’ve thought of everything. The vacant hairless vessel is shot from a cannon through a giant version of the First Amendment while the crowd chants the national anthem (“USA! USA!”). Commissar Putin strides from the throng dressed as Uncle Sam and he begins thoroughly licking bits of shell and yoke from the Trumplings body with his long, muscular tongue.

As we laugh with joy, the sky to the east is enveloped in a magical display of light and sound. “What wonderful fireworks!” gushes the grotesque Trump child, clapping his tiny flippers with glee. He looks so happy. No one has the heart to tell him that he has accidentally nuked Europe.

Happy 2017 everybody!

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