Missing You: ‘How can you not be common if you come from Pearse Street?’

Missing You, a patchwork of recorded Skype calls between Irish friends and families across the world, provides intimate access to the contemporary Diaspora

Missing You: It’s rare to get so immediate a sense of someone’s personality, or relationship. But the gift of Skype to a TV show is that everyone seems to speak to us directly

Missing You: It’s rare to get so immediate a sense of someone’s personality, or relationship. But the gift of Skype to a TV show is that everyone seems to speak to us directly

 

The premise behind Missing You (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 8.30pm) is so simple and efficient, it’s a wonder it has never been attempted before. Over the course of a year or so, a number of Irish people living abroad agreed to record their Skype calls back home. This provides not only an uncommonly intimate view of the contemporary Irish Diaspora, but, for producer and director Karen Moran, an immensely cost-effective way of seeing the world.

Video calls, once a sheeny futuristic fantasy, have become an unfussily familiar part of life, a commonplace of pixellated images, glitchy continuity and unflattering camera angles. The programme, though, tends to smooth over choppier connections. “We Irish are a restless race,” it offers, as a very upbeat analysis of emigration.

The canniest move of the programme is to forge a fast connection with its audience. We first meet Gemma, a Dubliner waking up in Australia as her family celebrate Christmas at home. Expecting her first child, Gemma muses on potential baby names - but nothing common. “How can you not be common if you come from Pearse Street?” brays her mother, Ann, a constant tease.

Such rapport seems to shrink away distance, but it also alleviates any uneasy sense of our voyeurism. Take Holly Austin, a young Cork woman in Boston, marvelling with her mother over the fine detail of her wedding cake ornament, before briefly worrying if it is the product of child labour. “But if it was a four-year-old,” she considers, now as dry as a fire hazard, “fair play!”

It’s rare to get so immediate a sense of someone’s personality, or relationship. But the gift of Skype to a TV show is that everyone seems to speak to us directly – we see what they see. Does that make us cosy accomplices or a secret surveillance team?

Some people, you feel, are aware that they are being watched, like the couple giving a full account of their speedy romance, having met on a Muslim dating site and married 30 minutes after their first meeting, or the brother in Dublin, squirming while his London-based sister proudly displays her baby’s freshly detached umbilical cord.

Politics, likewise, are muted: only the frank chatter of one endearing gay cabal, divided between Capel Street and Arizona, mentions current events, such as the death of Paul Daniels and the rise of Donald Trump (presumably unrelated).

How strong can such connections remain, the programme wonders, as though it feels a yearning for more analogue encounters. Gemma, the expectant mother in Sydney, puts it best, making a breezy distinction ahead of her family’s long-awaited visit: “Just think, the next time I see you, I’ll be looking at you.”  

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