PA­TRICK FREYNE

This week, Red Rock re­de­fined car-crash telly, while Pat Kenny hap­pily re­mem­bered the mad­ness

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS -

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.

Ma­tri­arch neme­ses

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

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