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I feel a swell of national pride when I see a big Irish hunk do well on the telly

Patrick Freyne: On Love Island – All Stars, Adam spends much of his time wearing a hat and tiny pants and little else. It’s a classic Irish look

I don’t quite see Love Island as a TV show any more. It’s more like an extension of my bird table. And, as with the birds on the bird table, I have an ambient parasocial relationship with the hunks. “Oh, look, the hunks/goldfinches are feeding,” I’ll say when Molly and Callum are making pancakes for their beloveds and/or the goldfinches are gobbling nyjer seeds.

“Oh no, I think the sparrows/hunks are fighting!” I’ll say when the sparrows/hunks are fighting.

“Oh, look at that fluffy one! I think I’ll call him Callum!” I’ll say of a robin and, also, Callum.

At one point, inspired by what I saw, I even tried to create a Love Island habitat in my garden. I threw around some cushions, mirrors and gym equipment, made a little pool with the hose and began narrating sarcastically. Then I waited for migratory hunks to alight. Sadly, I only got Mitchel from season 10. He won’t leave.


They have a similar problem with Mitchel on Love Island: All Stars (Virgin Media Two). Love Island: All Stars, so you know, is a show that involves hunks who have previously appeared on Love Island – hunks of yesteryear. Consequently, these are elderly hunks, on the cusp of 30, who remember the blitz (of publicity) and ration cards (what they were probably paid in lieu of money for the original series) and big-band music (My Humps by Black Eyed Peas).

Knowing that these geriatric studs have made this long and arduous journey to their old spawning ground, like salmon, adds a certain melancholy to proceedings. Even the seasoned hunkologist Maya Jama can barely hide her tears as she beholds these senescent beefcakes loping sadly around her island sanctuary, their brand endorsements depleted, their fashion sense stuck in Love Islands of yore (swimwear), their early 20s retreating in the rear-view mirror (the rear-view mirror has a different function on Love Island from the function it has on a car) and nothing before them but death (their 30s). As usual, they spend a lot of time looking in mirrors like budgies, possibly contemplating how time has withered them but largely just doing their make-up and hair and emitting various hunk calls, whistles and hoots.

Adam says things like, ‘My love languages are definitely physical touch and words of affirmation,’ which is, as you know, a Michael Collins quote

On Monday’s episode it feels as if the production team are finally attempting to prepare the hunks for lives beyond hunkdom with a sort of careers day. I’m not paying attention as the task is explained (I’m looking up the life cycle of hunks on Wikipedia), but it seems to involve the hunks role-playing different careers. For instance, Toby dresses as an astronaut, Anton dresses as a cowboy astride a magnificent steed and Georgia S dresses as a policeperson. Then, to my horror, they proceed to writhe in a sexy fashion on top of the interview panel (other hunks). This is, of course, completely inappropriate for the workplace (unless they plan to work in a sexy spaceship, on a sexy ranch or at a sexy police station, and it’s really hard to get jobs in those places nowadays).

On rewatching, I can see that they’ve actually been asked to strip and that the heart rates of all the participants are being monitored, to see who has been most effective at stripping. This is “science”, I believe. The vocational costumery is incidental. Also, Anton’s steed is a hobby horse, not a real horse (I’m not a horse expert), which means that he is also role-playing as an Edwardian child.

On the plus side, it’s nice to see an Irish hunk do well on the telly. The hunk in question, Adam, is literally and accurately described by a fellow islander as “a big Irish hunk”. (He’s like three normal hunks strapped together.) He spends much of this episode wearing a hat and tiny pants and little else (a classic look in Ireland in the summer) and saying things like, “My love languages are definitely physical touch and words of affirmation,” which is, as you know, a Michael Collins quote.

During the careers/stripping section of this episode, Adam dresses as an ancient Greek warrior. Yes, he may have missed the boat on that career by a few years, but it’s still probably a more realistic vocational aspiration than “web designer” or “journalist”. I bet you Adam will be snapped up as a sexy Greek warrior by a sexy Greek warlord as soon as he leaves the villa. Watching him bump and grind in a sexy fashion upon his island companions, and occasionally spank them, I feel a swell of national pride*, and I stand, draw my hand to my forehead in a firm salute** and sing Amhrán na bhFiann. (*Not a euphemism; **also not a euphemism.)

We need Irish success stories. Whatever problems RTÉ has, we need a public broadcaster and we need Irish-accented drama. Television drama is a risky, costly proposition. Unlike the BBC or Sky or Channel 4, RTÉ doesn’t have the budget for loads of them, and perfection is hard to achieve.

Blackshore, the new RTÉ Sunday-night crime drama, has a great cast and a decent story, but it also has a blizzard of overfamiliar crime-drama tropes. Hard-bitten cop DI Fia Lucey (Lisa Dwan) returns to the village she escaped due to a tragic past, to solve a murder. Solving murders is her jam. As her partner turns away, nauseated by the sight of a dead body (an obligatory scene in crime dramas), Lucey kneels eagerly, stopping just short of saying, “Yum! A corpse!”

She’s a cop who doesn’t play by the rules. You can tell this because she breaks a criminal’s nose in the opening scene and because she’s horrible to her colleagues for no reason. She is also very cool. She’s so cool she wears two different leather jackets, a biker jacket in episode one and a furry-collared flight jacket in episode two. This means she’s double cool. If it was still allowed on telly, she’d smoke two cigarettes.

In real life even people with a tortured past have hobbies. In real life, if a colleague is sullen at all times, we don’t think “intriguing, I can’t wait to see what rules she breaks next!” No, we take the piss. In a real Irish Garda station, Lucey would already have a nickname like Two Jackets. Someone would definitely have asked, “Where’d you park the plane?” in episode two.

Irish people are funny. This is, for some reason, rarely represented in our home-grown drama series (with exceptions such as Love/Hate and early Red Rock). In real life, people make jokes at funerals. People make jokes because humour is a common emotional response to melancholy. A little tonal complexity is good for crime shows. Ostensibly dark programmes such as Happy Valley or Slow Horses frequently puncture dramatic pomposity with shards of light, because light and shade makes characters feel heartbreakingly specific.

In Blackshore, characters often feel generic as they scowl, brood and scheme to minor-chord electronica. They fixate on the big plot points and never their dinner or the latest episode of Gladiators. Dwan’s a very good actor. Blackshore is well paced, with a moody, twisty story that comes into better focus as it progresses. So it’s also quite possible I just need to chill out, take a walk and contemplate the birds and hunks of God’s good earth.