There are rumblings within Chat Mountain and the cruel twin towers of reality TV might fall – here are 20 things 2015’s TV told me
Love/Hate left a dramatic void on Irish TV, filled initially by Haughey (same cast and plot; I think it’s a prequel) and later by solid tiger-kidnapping drama Clean Break (sadly, no real tigers). Neither quite did the trick. Love/Hate fans found themselves driving aimlessly around the docklands muttering into burner phones. 2 British television produced a lot of great drama. Abi Morgan’s River and Tom Rob Smith’s London Spy were beautiful, humane, unpredictable and expertly cast (Stellan Skarsgard – he’s like a big sad bear; Ben Whishaw – he’s like a sexy, soulful monchichi). The brilliant Wolf Hall extracted dramatic depths from Mark Rylance’s superhumanly expressive face and You, Me and
the Apocalypse entertainingly contemplated our inevitable doom. 3 Aidan Turner took his shirt off. In the BBC’s excellent remake of 1970s period drama
Poldark, the moody hero finds that shirts chafe his delicate skin and he must thus divest himself of them when the opportunity arises. 4 HBO increasingly parodied itself. Ballers (The Rock as a football agent) and The Brink (US foreign policy is bad) proved the network has a whiteboard on which is scrawled “sexy ladies” “bold words” and “hire a writer? Perhaps.” 5 Rather joyously, angry fraggle Vincent Browne broadcast from The George to celebrate the equality referendum. It was everything the no-side feared. “This is the new reality,” they thought. “Everything will be broadcast from the George from now on.” Sadly, this is not the case. 6 UTV Ireland happened. Born with the New Year, its crazed creators promised a whole new station, but instead replaced one we were accustomed to (UTV) with one that mainly showed repeats of Doc
Martin (UTV Ireland). Caught off-guard by Irish people’s familiarity with television as a concept (we didn’t dive out of the way of the oncoming train footage as they expected), they are currently revising their “any-old-shite” policy with the channel’s new owners ITV.
Alive, dammit! Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
7 Daniel and Majella O’Donnell roamed the land testing B&Bs (on UTV Ireland), which was charming, but also, as you know, one of the secrets of Fatima.
8 Netflix made lots of great shows. Jessica Jones, Master of None, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Orange is
the New Black and Better Call Saul suggest it has found a pop-culturally savvy, offbeat space between mock-portentous cable drama and network procedurals. Amazon Prime made lots of good shows too but decided not to make them available here (it’s like it works for UTV Ireland). 9 Superheroes proliferated. The DC and Marvel comics continue to infiltrate television. DC added Flash and Supergirl to the universe established in Arrow (Sky). Agent Carter and
Agents of Shield persevered, while on Netflix we got the first of a new batch of Marvel shows:
Daredevil (good) and Jessica Jones (very good). (Incidentally, comics guru Alan Moore decries the superhero boom as a retreat from the “overwhelming complexities of modern existence”.) 10 The best heroes were heroines. Jessica Jones, Sarah Manning from Orphan Black, Agent Carter, Saga from
The Bridge, Kimmy Schmidt. 11 There were spoiler alerts everywhere, because no one watches anything at the same time any more. Anyway, Little Nell dies, Darth Vader is Luke’s father, Sean Bean has his head chopped off, Kevin Spacey is Kaiser Soze, the Allies won the second World War and your investment property in Cape Verde did not turn out to be as profitable as you hoped. 12 There were many zombie shows. Make no mistake, this is how television executives see us: drooling meat-puppets in a herd. The
Walking Dead is the most acclaimed, but Z-Nation, produced on a smaller budget, is consistently wittier, more inventive and absurd. 13 Comedy went to interesting places. The UK had the gentle character drama of The Detectorists and the warm, spiky realism of
Catastrophe. The US had Master of None exploring issues of identity, Bojack Horseman mining the existential despair of a cartoon horse and Rick and
Morty moving beyond sci-fi pastiche into philosophically coherent nihilism. All were very funny. 14 TV3’s very good police melodrama Red Rock proves that Irish people have an appetite for more than one home-grown soap, or possibly just an extra local Garda station. 15 There was too much chat. The Late Late Show chuntered on, as it will until the heat death of the universe. Brendan O’Connor was replaced by Ray D’Arcy on Saturdays, but will apparently return in 2016. Gay Byrne and Miriam O’Callaghan also have sporadic chat shows. The life cycle of the Irish TV presenter peaks with chat. When future archaeologists dig up the remnants of our civilisation they will rightly assume we were a chat-based society that choked on our own chat. 16 Pat Kenny’s In the Round ended. This show didn’t, as expected, feature a greased-up Kenny wrestling strangers for food (welcome to the private sector, Pat), but was yet another celebrity chat show (UTV Ireland). It was quickly cancelled because of the aforementioned chat mountain. 17 Baz Ashmawy won an Emmy. It was for the excellent 50 Ways to Kill Your
Mammy (Sky). Once, Baz winning a Victoria Cross or the Orange Prize for woman’s fiction would have seemed more likely to me. This shows how much TV reviewers know. 18 Viewers craved kinder reality telly. The dark towers of cruelty X Factor (mock the poor and desperate) and I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here (mock the rich and useless) still stand, but the popularity of First
Dates, GBBO and Gogglebox suggests we want something sweeter and more real. Meanwhile TLC pumped out hours of footage of famous people going down the shops (I just spent 20 minutes watching Donnie Wahlburg and Jenny McCarthy buying a couch). 19 Youtube continued to eat our children. This year I went to Google HQ where fresh-faced Irish “youtubers” celebrated toiling for free on a pyramid scheme of online make-up tutorials and videogame walkthroughs. They see themselves as revolutionaries shedding the shackles of old media. They are actually sharecroppers turning the digital sod for Silicon Valley feudalists. Yes, I am great fun at parties.
20 Winning Streak returned. Gaze at Marty Whelan’s perfect moustache and twinkling eyes. All is well, yes?