PA­TRICK FREYNE

Neil Jor­dan has dis­owned hit drama ‘Riviera’, pos­si­bly be­cause all the were­wolves were cut

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS -

And so McGuin­ness leapt from his hot tub like Archimedes and lashed down to the lo­cal Ir­ish Club to get the scriptwrit­ing help of two clever lads from the old coun­try, Neil ‘Big Deal’ Jor­dan and John ‘Bants’ Banville

Neil Jor­dan isn’t happy. He says the pres­tige tele­vi­sion drama

Riviera (Thurs­day, Sky At­lantic) is not the show he wrote and he laments losing creative con­trol of it (so re­ports ace Sun­day

Busi­ness Post writer Na­dine O’Re­gan).

I get why he’s unim­pressed. His name fea­tures in the glit­tery Euro­vi­siony cred­its for each episode and it might as well say “This is Neil Jor­dan’s fault!” or “Jay­sus, Neil, what are you at?!”

It wasn’t even his idea. It all orig­i­nated with for­mer U2 man­ager and gazil­lion­aire Paul McGuin­ness who, while lolling about the Cote d’Azur, was moved to pity by the plight of the Monacan un­der­class (mere mil­lion­aires with but one yacht to their names) and was in­spired to cre­ate a Jimmy McGovernesque kitchen-sink drama about the fi­nan­cial tra­vails of a hum­ble bank­ing fam­ily. It is, ul­ti­mately,

El­do­rado meets the How to Spend It sup­ple­ment of the

Fi­nan­cial Times meets Scooby Doo.

And so McGuin­ness leapt from his hot tub like Archimedes and lashed down to the lo­cal Ir­ish Club to get the script-writ­ing help of two clever lads from the old coun­try, Neil “Big Deal” Jor­dan and John “Bants” Banville. Riviera was quite pos­si­bly a high­brow work of ge­nius by the time they were done. They wrote it, no doubt, with quills on parch­ment, while smok­ing opium and wear­ing cra­vats and berets, their minds truly on higher things.

En­ter the evil Tele­vi­sion Ex­ecs, prob­a­bly called Brad and Ken, and def­i­nitely wear­ing shiny suits with their sleeves rolled up Mi­ami Vice- style and clutch­ing big phones with aeri­als stick­ing out of them. Brad and Ken take one look at Jor­dan and Banville’s dark art-world-ex­pos­ing scripts and start adding gra­tu­itous sexy in­ter­ludes and

Dy­nasty daft­ness. So says Jor­dan, who lest we for­get is the writer of The Bor­gias, which wasn’t im­mune to sexy in­ter­ludes and daft­ness it­self (I like to call it Sex­pope). Here’s the premise of Riviera. Ge­orgina (Ju­lia Stiles), a slightly dead-eyed art cu­ra­tor with a se­cret, is mar­ried to mys­te­ri­ous plu­to­crat Con­stan­tine Clio, who ex­plodes along with a price­less paint­ing and sev­eral less im­por­tant peo­ple in a yacht. Such is life, to para­phrase the Cheeky Girls.

In­stantly, ques­tions are raised. Is Con­stan­tine really dead? What is in his un­fath­omable safe-room be­hind the wine cel­lar? Who was the Mys­te­ri­ous SexyLadyTM seen div­ing from his fancy yacht of death? What are the points for art his­tory th­ese days, any­way? And how did Con­stan­tine make his money?

The last two ques­tions are linked, if only be­cause Ge­orgina never both­ered in­quir­ing about the source of Con­stan­tine’s wealth while he was alive, pre­fer­ring to sashay around his de­light­ful prop­er­ties in fancy frocks with a sulky puss on her. Per­haps she as­sumed he just toiled ev­ery day at the busi­ness-fac­tory, where he was paid a union wage of real es­tate, di­a­monds, fine wines and sports cars?

Adultchil­dren

Ge­orgina must now con­tend with th­ese mys­ter­ies as well as man­age Con­stan­tine’s adult chil­dren, a bewil­dered coke-snort­ing lothario (Dim­itri Leonidas), a charm­ingly flaky novelist (Iwan Rheon, chan­nelling a young Banville) and a ra­bid pixie-dream burp (Rox­ane Du­ran). The lat­ter is en­gaged in

a star-crossed flir­ta­tion with the gardener, and her hob­bies in­clude walk­ing around in her pants and pop­ping up sud­denly be­hind fur­ni­ture, like a ghost or a dis­obe­di­ent pet or a glove pup­pet on a dis­turb­ing chil­dren’s TV show.

Mean­while, Ge­orgina’s hob­bies in­clude star­ing for in­ter­minably long pe­ri­ods at the forged mas­ter­piece and maguf­fin Juno Con­fid­ing Io to the Care

of Ar­gus and re­mem­ber­ing to ex­hibit emo­tions oc­ca­sion­ally.

At the start of this week’s episode, Ge­orgina shoots a deer, to in­di­cate, I think, that she is a force to be reck­oned with. Be­fore long, no doubt em­bold­ened by this sense­less act of vi­o­lence, she’s fran­ti­cally wav­ing a gun around in the stu­dio of a neck­er­chief wear­ing art-forger and en­list­ing her old art-world friend Robert (Adrian Lester) to try to break into her hus­band’s for­ti­fied safe room (a sen­tence that usu­ally spells trou­ble for a mar­riage) and spy upon the glo­ri­ous secrets within.

There’s also Con­stan­tine’s ex-wife Irina (Lena Olin), who at­tempts to con­trol the fam­ily from afar and ma­nip­u­lates lo­cal dig­ni­taries with her sexy wiles; there is Phil Davis fax­ing it in as an In­ter­pol in­ves­ti­ga­tor (“phon­ing it in” sug­gests too much ur­gency); and there is the afore­men­tioned Sexy Woman TM who es­capes from hospi­tal dressed as a nurse be­fore hitch­ing a lift with a man who as­sumes she’s a pros­ti­tute. To quote les kidz: that es­ca­lated quickly. The man un­buck­les his trousers. She stabs him in the head with a model of the Eiffel Tower. This event is both gra­tu­itously hor­ri­ble and also a metaphor for how Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions are go­ing.

Then the whole fam­ily go out for a din­ner, at which they bait one an­other drunk­enly and at least one of them drops ¤600,000 at a casino. Irina has sex with the casino owner, for that is her way. Then Robert in­ex­pli­ca­bly gasses the whole house­hold into un­con­scious­ness. It’s un­clear why he’s do­ing

this, but I as­sume, like the rest of us, he’s just sick of the lot of them (next week, hope­fully, we’ll all just sit around with Robert ap­pre­ci­at­ing Juno Con­fid­ing Io to the Care of Ar­gus).

I have no idea how Jor­dan and Banville’s ap­par­ently darker scripts went, but un­less the char­ac­ters all turned into were­wolves (pos­si­bly) or ru­mi­na­tions on the Ir­ish con­di­tion (un­likely) I can’t see how there was ever go­ing to be much more to this premise. It doesn’t really stretch be­yond “the rich, sure look at the cut of them!”, and this, when not done for the pur­poses of camp or satire, is just tire­some.

Ar­ses!

Neil Jor­dan’s other pro­gramme, Naked At­trac­tion (Thurs­day, Chan­nel 4), or, to use his orig­i­nal pre­ferred ti­tle, Ar­ses! Ar­ses! Ar­ses!, is a bit more en­ter­tain­ing (ed­i­tor’s note: Neil Jor­dan has noth­ing to do with Naked At­trac­tion).

A su­per­fi­cially ed­u­ca­tional nude dat­ing show over­seen with pur­ga­to­rial pa­tience by Anna Richard­son, it is, of course, an ex­cuse to see naked peo­ple un­der the help­ful cover of so­cial-sci­en­tific re­spectabil­ity.

To which I say: “Ooh err, Doc­tor Boffinly, you don’t get many of those to the pound!” and also, “Se­ri­ously? We’re do­ing this now?”

Dead-eyed art cu­ra­tor: Ju­lia Stiles as Ge­orgina Clio in Riviera

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