Blackly comic and slightly surreal - and that's just the economy


TV REVIEW:MISERY ON Sunday and Monday: two depressing TV nights in a row. The first was unexpected for all of us delusional bandwagon jumpers who believed we’d trounce Croatia.

The following night’s downer, Ireland Outside the Euro? (RTÉ One), was more expected, because it was about the economy and was presented by George Lee, whose voice is naturally pitched for doom and gloom. It was a slick production of two halves. (All that football jargon gets in on you after a while.) The first was a not particularly interesting history lesson on how the euro came into being. All anyone really wanted to know was what the title promised: if we’re out what will happen to people’s savings, how do you open a Swiss bank account and would our new currency really be called the punt nua?

Lee got to the really scary stuff in the second half, with his experts (all men bar one woman: are there really no female economics pundits?), who mostly seemed of the view that the euro will break up at some point but whether we’d be firing up the punt nua printing presses was unclear. That’s the frustrating thing about these types of programmes in such a time of uncertainty. You watch with hope overriding experience, waiting for definitive answers, but the depressing truth soon emerges that, despite how authoritative the contributors sound, no one really knows what’s going to happen.

The consensus among most of the experts was that if we were out of the euro our exports would be cheaper but that, as we import nearly everything, prices would go up by 30 per cent. There’d be major tax hikes, no money to pay public servants, deep austerity and a wait of years before we could pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, as no one would lend us any money.

And just when you were poleaxed with fear by all those predictions, scenes of rioting (from Argentina when it defaulted) and ominous music, Lee put the tin hat on it by saying that “exit may be forced up upon us – by circumstances beyond our control”.

RAY D’ARCY IN the first part of Ireland’s Depression Epidemic (TV3, Tuesday) rightly pointed out that “depression” is such an everyday, possibly overused word that the real meaning gets lost. Feelings of sadness and depression are part of the range of human emotions, but when they tip over into illness – clinical depression, one of his experts said, is when you are down for two weeks or more – that’s when treatment is needed. D’Arcy has such an easy style that he succeeded in the programme’s aim “of normalising a discussion” on depression. But the mix of interviewees was odd, in terms of the experts and the people generous enough to share their experiences of depression. The experts – the doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist – were men, and three of the four people with depression were middle-aged women. Is that really the depression demographic – and why not, if you have a presenter as youth-friendly as D’Arcy, use the opportunity to highlight depression in young women and particularly in young men, who are a particular risk group for suicide and who may be reluctant to recognise or admit to depression? It seemed like a lost opportunity in an otherwise well-made programme.

MAYBE IT WAS because I watched the inspiring Life Patrol: On the Banks of the Foyle (BBC One, Monday) that I found the closing shot of Ireland’s Depression Epidemic, which stressed the many ways of getting help for depression, a little ill judged. D’Arcy stood in Dublin’s docklands on the edge of the water, looking out to sea. Up in Derry, the voluntary suicide patrol – an extraordinary service run by inspiring people – spends every night keeping watch over the bridges and banks of the River Foyle to prevent suicide attempts. They sit in cars at the bridge, on the lookout for people who look as if they might jump, and spend days patrolling the shoreline, searching for missing people.

Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the UK, and the volunteers who run this service have saved 19 people’s lives and recovered four bodies this year alone. In a moment of reality TV that was a little too real, we saw the team of volunteers spotting a woman who was about to jump off the bridge, one leg over the railing, and sprinting to her aid. They got to her in time, and her cries of distress were heartbreaking.

FOR A MUCH-NEEDED laugh, there was the first in the new series Dead Boss (BBC Three, Thursday), written by Sharon Horgan and Holly Walsh and starring Horgan as Helen Stephens, a woman wrongly accused of killing her boss. It’s hilarious, black and slightly surreal. “How’s it going?” the dim but hopeful Helen asks her solicitor. “Well, you’ve just been found guilty and sentenced to 12 years, so I’d say not so good,” says the hopeless “no win, some fee” lawyer.

There’s more than a touch of a camp mix of Bad Girls and Prisoner: Cell Block H: the prisoner to be feared is the butch lesbian Top Dog, who turns out to have been Helen’s teacher. And it is wall-to-prison-wall with women comics, including old hands such as Jennifer Saunders, as the permanently irritated governor, and newer faces, such as Aisling Bea (familiar to Savage Eye fans), as Helen’s manipulative sister. It could easily be as good as Horgan’s much-missed and cut-off-too-soon sitcom Pulling.

And as good as the Après Match sketches on RTÉ One, of course. “We should take down the bunting and start learning German,” sing-songed “Liam Brady” (Barry Murphy), with his rubbish bald wig. It was a line that could easily have ended George Lee’s programme.

Get stuck into . . .

True Love (BBC One, tomorrow until Wednesday), the BBC’s first improvised drama series, with a top cast that includes Billie Piper (right), David Tennant and Jane Horrocks.

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