This week, Red Rock redefined car-crash telly, while Pat Kenny happily remembered the madness
For 44 episodes, we’ve been watching the story of two feuding families – one poor, one rich-ish – living in the fictional suburb of Red Rock. As analyses of class warfare go, Red Rock falls pleasingly between Das Kapital and Lord Snooty. David, the drippy scion of the Hennessy clan has been having a secret love affair with Katie, gutsy doe-eyed daughter of local gurriers the Kielys.
David is dreamy. Katie is tough. David also killed Katie’s brother, but nobody’s perfect.
David acts like a moody teenager as his mother tries to puppet-master his life. “Muuum! I don’t want to help cover-up the murder that I did or break up with the sister of the man I murdered! I just want to go out with my friends! I haate you muuuum!” he says in every episode more or less.
I first lost respect for David in an early bedroom scene with Katie. He was wearing military dog-tags on his bare chest, as though he feared being lost in action.
Patricia, the Hennessy matriarch, specialises in eye-based acting. She likes to loom into shot glaring like a meerkat at a rave. Matriarchs are important in soapland. The Kielys also have one, in what could be seen as a sort of matriarch arms-race. The Kiely’s matriarch, Bridget, prefers scowl-pouting to glaring. There has been, as yet, no matriarch- on-matriarch cat-fighting. But give it time.
Red Rock is a brave attempt to establish a new soap franchise. It’s nicely self-contained, focusing its melodrama around the local police station, with the rest of the suburb depicted as a desolate hellscape of empty warehouses where people go to scheme. This focus is also sometimes a claustrophobic weakness, necessitating dull police-related subplots when what we want is more freaky matriarchs and feckless feuding.
The policemen in Red Rock sometimes remind me of a different set of blue men with idiosyncratic headgear (The Smurfs). There’s Smooth Cop who is fighting with Saintly Cop because they both fancy Sarcastic Cop. There’s Papa Cop and Statutory-rape Cop (who’s gone for now). And there’s the Cop with a Property Portfolio who faces an angry debt-collector and bankruptcy. His pal, Heroic Cop offers to smurf him some money. “You’d do the same for me,” she says, which isn’t entirely accurate. Then the Cop with a Property Portfolio sets fire to his rental house, but is secretly filmed by a vandal in a wardrobe.
The first series ends with cliff-hangers: Will Katie get an abortion? Will Arson Cop be jailed? Will I learn to care about the heroin subplot (I don’t know what I feel about heroin any more)? And will Saintly Cop survive? He is hit by a car without context or foreshadowing in the final moments.
Was this a real-life car accident they decided to leave in the edit? Will this, as the programme progresses, become a feature – a way to suddenly, and without notice, eliminate superfluous characters? Is this mystery car like the smoke monster in Lost? Is it, perhaps, the malevolent car from Stephen King’s Christine? We’ll have to wait until September to find out.
What’s the Jackanory, Pat? Pat Kenny in the Round is a chat show that reminds me of Behind
the Music, or Piers Morgan’s Life Stories or Jackanory. Every week, sitting onstage amid his beloved collection of interesting rectangles, Pat Kenny encourages a tame celebrity to reminisce.
This week it’s Shane Filan, who is introduced with folksy hyperbole. “Little did this little lad from Sligo realise that he would become a member of the biggest boy band on the planet,” says Pat, channelling old Mr Brennan, and I find myself hoping he’ll do the whole interview with Shane perched on his knee.
He does not. Shane wants his own chair. The big prima donna. He thinks he’s better than us.
The focus of In the Round is biographical. There are no musical performances, no other guests, and at no point does Pat strip to the waist, grease himself up and say: “And now Shane, we fight like men. Here is your trident.”
Shane was always destined for stardom. If he saw his reflection, “he would start dancing and doing Michael Jackson,” his mother says, suggesting she might have been equally happy with a musical career for Shane or a diagnosis.
They recall how a travelling salesman found a box of babies in a skip and transformed them into Westlife. We see footage of Westlife rough-housing delightfully and staring moodily in different directions (this is how boy bands in the wild watch for predators). And then we get onto the bit about how poor Shane lost all his money in the property bubble.
“We’re going to go back now and remember the madness,” says Pat, happily, because he loves remembering the madness.
I was hoping that this post-apocalyptic segment might involve Pat projecting torchlight upon childish stick figures (“In the long ago, before the End Timez, there came the Buildermen . . .”). Instead. an economist tells us how we lost all our money. Then Shane, who seems nice enough, says he couldn’t have got through it without his wife.
“Another woman,” Pat says, “might have decided, ‘Enough is enough. You’ve been an idiot. You’ve lost us the money. You’ve destroyed our prosperity.’”
Jesus, Pat. I think Shane feels bad enough already.
In the Round is low-stakes, low-ambition television. Pat’s job is story-herding, gently prodding a friendly celebrity along a well-worn path. He’s enjoying himself but it isn’t exactly taxing. On the other hand, I like seeing Pat on television.
Here are some other vehicles I would love to see: Pat Kenny P.I., That’s Pat! Pat Kenny and Pat Kenny in Double Trouble, Professor Patsington Kenniham and his Fantabulous Menagerie. Pat Kenny, American Gigolo (these are just suggestions).
Is this mystery car like the smoke monster in Lost? Is it, perhaps, the malevolent car from Stephen King’s Christine? We’ll have to wait until September to find out
Smurf me the money: Red
Rock’s Heroic Cop Sharon