Salon Confidential: It’s so off the mark, it’s enjoyable

RTÉ’s new show sees hair and beauty experts pass judgment on child-bearing, Asperger’s and Tinder

The Salon Confidential team (Áine O Neill, Billy Bunzari, Ross McKenna, Stephanie Maher, Nigel Kenny and Lisa Jordan) are here to share your problems, whether you like it or not

The Salon Confidential team (Áine O Neill, Billy Bunzari, Ross McKenna, Stephanie Maher, Nigel Kenny and Lisa Jordan) are here to share your problems, whether you like it or not

 

The first episode of the four-part Salon Confidential, RTÉ’s most blatant attempt to reach an audience under 35 since Morbegs, aired last night on RTÉ2. The show, confirming what we have all long suspected – that RTÉ fears the young just as much as it fails to understand them – is set in a Dublin 24 salon.

As you might expect (in that you wouldn’t expect it at all), it features people whose hair isn’t yet cool enough sharing awkward or controversial problems with both the audience and the hyper-groomed person standing behind them wielding a sharp scissors. These people’s problems then make their way quickly round the salon so that all the other clients and stylists can pass crisp, lacquered judgment and then tell them how to live.

First in with a problem to share is blogger Rosemary Mac Cabe, who doesn’t actually have a problem, but in a controversial move that is definitely everyone’s business, has decided she doesn’t want children. Stylist Ruth, who describes herself as “shoot[ing] from the hip”, proves it by declaring to a client that she can tell he’s had botox, and works on turning Mac Cabe’s hair a trendy shade of lavender while her business makes its way round the salon.

There are a few standout characters among the stylists. Stephanie, a Crumlin native and single mother of two, is brilliant and frightening and says things like “I would’ve done a bit of cheating, because who wants the same mickey all the time, d’you know that kinda way?”

Billy Bunzari makes an impact in the first episode by wearing a ship’s captain’s hat for absolutely no discernible reason, and has an interesting conversation with ex-street trader client Betty, who takes guff from no living person. Betty considers carefully when Billy asks what she would have done in her younger years if the pill had been available. After declaring that she has six sons and two daughters, Betty say’s “I’d have ate a bag of them” (that’s pills, not babies).

Meanwhile, makeup artist Lisa, who is working on Dublin model Rachel in a corner of the room, has many feelings and ostensibly explores those instead of doing makeup.

The salon convenes a conclave to discuss Rosemary’s (metaphorical) baby. Pooling together their various psychological, obstetric and, of course, psychic expertise, they decide that she will indeed regret her decision. Ruth breaks the news gently to Rosemary with a large luminescent sign tastefully marked #REGRETS in very large black letters.

What happens then, we can only presume, is that off-camera Mac Cabe, her tragically empty womb and fresh lilac hair are then put on a transport to Siberia, where all childless women must bare-knuckle fight until one of them triumphs and is made queen of their barren, freezing village, ultimately confirming what we all guessed – that matriarchy cannot work.

Cut to Lisa (still not having progressed on the makeup front) respecting Mac Cabe’s position while still thinking she should have a baby anyway because babies are great, and because feelings.

Emotionally, the episode feels finished there, but it continues for approximately 40 more minutes of your finite life span.

Former Miss Ireland Yvonne Costelloe wants the salon’s opinion on whether she should have botox and a facelift and maybe some other stuff. A nice man named Cathal gets a very sharp haircut from stylist Ross while debating whether he should tell women on Tinder that he has Asperger’s. This one is difficult for the salon to mull over, largely because it seems evident early on that not everyone knows what Asperger’s actually is.

Finally, a woman named Deirdre puts the deep philosophical question to the salon of whether a polyamorous life is a good life to live, while stylist Nigel, who is highlighted to within an inch of his life, tries to keep cool about the whole thing. He shaves one side of Deirdre’s head bald. This, presumably, is on purpose.

 Overall, the show has a similar effect to what you might feel if you were delusional with fever and climbed into a children’s ball-pit while being slightly paranoid that you were being chased by someone with scissors. It is so off the mark that there is something enjoyable about it.  

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