Fantasy Ireland review: toothless satire caught in a 1990s time warp

Review: Zig and Zag creators Ciaran Morrison and Mick O’Hara wear their 1990s heritage a little too conspicuously

The quirky animation is hugely likeable and lands somewhere between South Park and a Julia Donaldson picture book.

The quirky animation is hugely likeable and lands somewhere between South Park and a Julia Donaldson picture book.

 

An anarchic sense of mischief runs riot through Fantasy Ireland (RTÉ Two, Thursday), a new animation from the comedy partnership behind Zig and Zag, and it’s just about enough to paper over its flaws. The big idea is that monsters from Irish legend have emerged from the mythological murk and that only a trio of hardened millennials can save us.

The premise is solidly daft and it will never not be a novelty seeing local landmarks on screen. In the case of the first episode of Fantasy Ireland these include the Perpetual Motion sculpture (aka Naas’s big ball), Áras an Uachtaráin and an M50 clogged with giant dog poo.

The quirky animation is hugely likeable too. It’s by Trevor Courtney of Igloo Animations and lands somewhere between South Park and a Julia Donaldson picture book. And there’s a strong cast including Mary-Kate Geraghty, of Fight Like Apes, as (sigh) “up from the country” heroine Ciara.

But Fantasy Island has its issues. As evil priest Father Murphy (Pascal Scott) is unveiled as the villain, I kept thinking I had slipped through a wormhole and woken up in 1995. Does the Church make for a plausible baddie in a satire set in 21st century Ireland? I can think of many new sacred cows crying out to be skewered. I’m sure you can do likewise.

Instead, it’s that hoary old baddie of Roman Catholicism. What a depressing throwback. In their alter-egos of Zig and Zag writers Ciaran Morrison and Mick O’Hara have a track record in tweaking the nose of Irish sensibilities (And even more so with their alter alter-egos Podge and Rodge).

But here they wear their Gen X heritage a little too conspicuously. A predatory padre trying to lure people back to Mass is a conceit that only really chimes if you’re ancient enough to recall the fuss about the Virgin Megastore selling prophylactics. Is that really the audience Fantasy Ireland is chasing?

It also suffers from an over-reliance on expletives rather than jokes. And I’m not sure about Murphy’s Leprechaun sidekick “Flatley”. This is presumably a reference to Michael Flatley. Unfortunately that appears to be where the gag begins and ends.

Still, for all that, Fantasy Ireland has a helter-skelter charm. The first episode, clocking in at just 10 minutes, passes in a chaotic blur. It isn’t perfect and it isn’t even always funny. It is immensely beguiling, though, with bundles of moxie.

There’s clearly potential, then, for Fantasy Ireland to become a jewel in RTÉ’s admittedly rusted and clunking comedic crown. But it needs to shed the 1990s trappings. And, more importantly, update its toothless satirising with a fresh set of comedy incisors.

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