TV3’S fine se­ries shows the work that went into run­ning a Big House…

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FOOD & DRINK -

V3’s new his­tor­i­cal se­ries

( Mon­days, 9.30pm) fol­lows the same for­mat as The Ten­e­ments, which was also made by pro­duc­tion com­pany Big Moun­tain. Again, vol­un­teers go back in time to dis­cover what life was like for their an­ces­tors. Like The Ten­e­ments, all of the 13 men and women on the pro­gramme have some con­nec­tion with real-life Ir­ish Big Houses. So of­ten his­tory pro­grammes fail be­cause of histri­onic pre­sen­ters, clunky re­con­struc­tions and tele­vi­sion peo­ple’s over­whelm­ing de­sire to place past events within a mod­ern con­text. The Big House suf­fers from none of the above.

What makes it such an en­joy­able watch is the re­fresh­ing en­thu­si­asm and lack of pre­tence from the vol­un­teers tak­ing part. In the sec­ond episode this week, they gamely pre­pared the meals as would have been con­cocted in the kitchen of an 18th-cen­tury Big House, while mak­ing some mor­dant asides about the di­etary habits of the landed gen­try. Un­like many re­al­ity shows of this type, the tasks they are set weren’t se­lected on the ba­sis of how un­pleas­ant they were to per­form. In­stead, they were de­signed to il­lus­trate just how much work and ex­pense were in­volved in the daily run­ning of th­ese es­tates. Most poignant are the mem­o­ries of those who ac­tu­ally worked in do­mes­tic ser­vice, such as Kath­leen Devins, who re­called the par­ties the staff used to have when the mas­ter and his wife were away.

Be­fore his turn as the mon­strous soap vil­lain Trevor Jor­dache in Brook­side, Big House pre­sen­ter Bryan Mur­ray was best known for his role as Flurry in the smallscreen adap­ta­tion of The Ir­ish RM – the se­ries of comic nov­els by the An­glo-Ir­ish Somerville and Ross – back in the 1980s. He helped place the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the gen­try and the staff in con­text through the se­lec­tive use of pri­mary doc­u­ments.

Per­haps most notably, the pro­gram­memak­ers have opted not to beat the viewer over the head with a mes­sage. For all we may laugh at the op­u­lence of the landed gen­try, there were some in a later rul­ing class de­ter­mined to im­i­tate them. Gil­lian An­der­son (above, with John Lynch as Jim Burns and Michael Colgan as Shel­don Schwartz) re­turns to our screens in this moody five-part de­tec­tive thriller. She plays DSI Stella Gib­son, brought in from Lon­don’s Metropoli­tan Po­lice to help her col­leagues in Belfast as they in­ves­ti­gate the mur­der of a woman. ‘The killer is out there some­where,’ ex­plains Burns, ‘and we have noth­ing at all.’ As Stella looks into the case, she be­comes con­vinced that a se­rial killer is at work. Her su­pe­ri­ors are un­will­ing to be­lieve her, but we know she’s right be­cause we’ve al­ready seen the killer at work, metic­u­lously pre­par­ing for his next at­tack. But this is no or­di­nary se­rial killer, and it will be no easy task to track him down. No won­der Stel­latella – and ev­ery­one else – is look­inglo wor­ried…

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