The new Alan Gilsenan series for RTE1, I See A Darkness, about suicide, is a fascinating and very sad set of programmes. Suicide is such an unexplained look or attempt to unravel and hopefully understand that harsh happening at the heart of darkness in people. The fact that the first programme featured just one family trying to explain and come to terms with the suicide of a teenage son who wa raped by a woman, adds a deeper hurt. You feel trapped into one suicide and a series of family members putting it in a context that they might explain it.
Gilsenan’s camera lingers on objects to create a visual sense of dislocation and you feel the images are about such awful despair. Suicide is at the heart of despair, not cowardice but who are we, the viewer, to talk about cowardice?
C4 had another hit in its Cutting Edge series with Addicted To Surrogacy, about women who give birth to others’ children for a financial arrangement. I’m not sure if the title is accurate in relation to addiction but some of it was joyful and full of hope for people anxious to have a baby and could not adopt for various reasons. Some of it was sad and perhaps a little desperate and uncaring. Amanda, who had three children of her own but no male partner, has a surrogate child for Olga and Stephen, referred to herself as a-baby-making conveyor belt. The scenes as she asks her three young kids to say goodbye to the little baby boy are heartrending and Olga does not want the baby woken up or breathed on. Kim Cotton was Britain’s first surrogate mum, only in 1985. An American surrogate seemed cheerful and business-like as she handed over twins to anxious parents.
What is it about dance on tv that is now pulling in better figures than episodes of soaps? UTVs Dancing On Ice has nearly an audience of 10 million and the Let’s Dance For Comic Relief brought in over 8 million with Angela Rippon high on the audiences hit-list with a routine from Sweet Charity.
Hard to see what RTE1 is doing with their Not Enough Hours programme. Why do they need a consultant like Owen Fitzpatrick to be a psychologist as well as a time manager, when the type of people they select just won’t listen or even stop and listen. Last week a nice but scatty woman farmer from Westmeath couldn’t sit still and couldn’t finish even odd jobs she started, yet she was full of chat and enthusiasm. There is no hard business edge here, just off tv for the sake of odd tv.
Despite all the hype, the stellar cast, the complicated, hard to follow story of Red Riding, the three part series about crime in West Yorkshire. It’s too grainy, too dull, too relentless, as it uses real crimes as a background to a story about major police corruption. It does give the impression (should that be depression) that a group of psychopathic coppers are behind the real crimes in England. Reminded me of superbly cast and acted work but the work got lost in the edit and you get hinted at images, oblique asides and dark dark photography where the colours are bleached out into a muddy monochrome. Can’t see what all the fuss is about.
The Green Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan, has decided that spongers will no longer be jailed for non-payment of tv licences. Last year 54 went to jail for this and in the same year An Post began prosecutions against 14,000 people who failed to pay the €160 fee. Some lot of paperwork and people-hours there. In the last five years 220 were jailed for such non-payment. Apparently it costs €90,000 for each prison place each year.
BBC, through the international agency of Freemantle Media, has sold the hit Dragons and Wizards show, Merlin, to a worldwide audience. NBC in America will broadcast it in early summer, thus becoming the first UK drama to be bought by a US network in thirty years. The show goes into a second series, is made in Wales and has now been sold to over 112 territories.
It is now likely that Richard Madeley may end his tv partnership with wife Judy, when their digital show on Watch, comes to an ignominious end. Despite its hopeful title and new programme title of Richard And Judy’s New Position, it is only watched by less than 10,000 people. Where did they go wrong?