TV and Ra­dio

In a de­bate that is nei­ther fric­tion­less nor open, Pat Kenny stokes wor­ries about a hard border; the mafiosi of ‘Go­mor­rah’ are despatched rou­tinely, but rarely given a chance to live; and the fu­ture is a bit too fa­mil­iar in ‘Al­tered Car­bon’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE - PETER CRAW­LEY

Screen and sound re­views

‘S eam­less, fric­tion­less and open.” As he crosses it by foot at night, Pat Kenny de­scribes the Border be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic as though it was al­most as suave as him­self.

For the re­turn of The Pat Kenny Show (TV3, Wed­nes­day, 10pm), his cur­rent af­fairs broad­cast has trekked to Black­lion in Co Ca­van, a stone’s throw from Bel­coo in Fer­managh, to dis­cuss the threat of a hard border and the chal­lenges fac­ing ru­ral Ire­land, with a panel of politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors.

To make this in­di­gestible prospect more palat­able, the pro­gramme kicks off in the kitchen of Neven Maguire’s McNean House restau­rant. Maguire em­ploys the same re­as­sur­ing tones he uses to guide you through a casse­role recipe, to con­sider, at Pat’s in­sis­tence, the “Doomsday” of a hard Brexit.

In a stately re­cep­tion room, bet­ter laid out for gen­teel par­lour games than po­lit­i­cal de­bate, a panel takes ques­tions about ru­ral af­fairs as though play­ing a round of pass the cliché.

“It’s not a hand-out we need, it’s a hand up,” says bullish In­de­pen­dent TD Michael Fitz­mau­rice.

“We don’t want hand-outs . . . ” in­sists de­fen­sive Fine Gael sen­a­tor Michelle Mul­herin, a lit­tle later.

“No, this isn’t about ask­ing govern­ment for hand-outs, as has al­ready been said,” notes as­sured Sinn Fein MEP, Matt Carthy.

The gen­eral ar­gu­ment is that ru­ral Ire­land has suf­fered un­fairly from years of un­der­in­vest­ment and in­ad­e­quate in­fras­truc­ture, and, use­ful as it is, the ex­hausted slo­gan seems like an ex­am­ple.

Salient points are dis­cussed at speed. Some, like Mul­herin’s con­fused time­line for Fine Gael’s Na­tional Plan­ning strat­egy over “the next two score years . . . twenty score years”, sug­gest the prob­lem will be kicked down to our dis­tant descen­dants. That ac­tu­ally seems quite likely.

Oth­er­wise the au­to­matic po­lit­i­cal im­pulse to seek favour and refuse blame ex­poses the tight seams of this de­bate, its pre­dictable fric­tion, its closed na­ture; a dis­cus­sion with hard bor­ders.

“The vac­uum of po­lit­i­cal think­ing is re­placed by mood,” sug­gests pun­dit Joe Brolly, sit­ting ca­su­ally with Pat on top of an out­door pic­nic ta­ble. And while Brolly is un­fazed by the threat of the re­turn of a hard border (“Al­ready it’s been made clear that that’s not go­ing to hap­pen.”) the show still en­ter­tains that fear: a mood of doom eas­ily fills the vac­uum of un­cer­tainty.

The pro­gramme of­fers one fi­nal tonic with the ap­pear­ance of fric­tion­less cross-border singing sen­sa­tion Brian Kennedy, who, to his credit, wants none of it. He per­forms Christo­pher Street, a song about New York, which seems like the show’s most tren­chant com­ment.

Let’s get as far away from all this as pos­si­ble.

Brood­ing­mafia

One mo­ment guar­an­teed to raise a smile in

Go­mor­rah (Sky At­lantic, Wed­nes­day, 9pm & 10pm) – a show that is oth­er­wise in­clined to leave them buried – comes dur­ing its end cred­its. There the pro­gramme grate­fully ac­knowl­edges the as­sis­tance of the Napoli tourist board. If you’ve watched this brood­ing mafia drama, con­cen­trated on the Scondigliano neigh­bour­hoods where the Camorra clans of or­gan­ised crime op­er­ate, you know what the tourist board must be think­ing. What has

Go­mor­rah done for us lately? Based on the book by Roberto Sa­viano, which has since in­spired a play, a film and the au­thor’s full-time po­lice pro­tec­tion, Go­mor­rah now enters its third se­ries with a cast list sub­ject to bru­tal re­vi­sion.

The open­ing episode is taken up with the af­ter­math of Don Pi­etro’s as­sas­si­na­tion, dis­patched, evoca­tively, at the foot of his own tomb, and con­veyed, rev­er­ently, to a meat locker. His son, Ge­narro (Sal­va­tore Es­pos­ito), a man with the gait of a rhi­noc­eros and the hair stylings of a pre­mier­ship foot­baller, blames Ciro (Marco D’Amore), his one-time as­so­ci­ate and now mor­tal en­emy. But the di­vi­sions within this Se­condigliano crime fam­ily are far more po­tent. “You know what they say, Malam­more?” Genny chides his fa­ther’s No 2. “The viceroy be­comes the king’s worst en­emy.” Malam­more re­sponds: “They also say the only one not weep­ing at the king’s funeral is his son.” Men­ac­ing apho­risms seem to be the weapon of choice.

The show is oth­er­wise lead­enly short on wit, a re­flec­tion more on the char­ac­ters than the mak­ers. Un­like The So­pra­nos, The Wire or even Love/Hate – shows with glanc­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties – Go­mor­rah’s Mafiosi rarely get a flash of

‘‘ ‘Seam­less, fric­tion­less and open.’ As he crosses it by foot at night, Pat Kenny de­scribes the Border be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic as though it was al­most as suave as him­self

per­son­al­ity, too busy killing to ever just kill time. (This se­ries, like the last one, flashes for­ward by a year, as though ner­vous of ever slow­ing down.)

If the se­ries comes close to an arch com­ment, it is the sub­limely tacky dis­play of crim­i­nal wealth. Don Pi­etro’s cof­fin is gaudier than a Re­nais­sance Pope’s and in a gold-plated home that King Mi­das might find ex­ces­sive, even the se­cu­rity mon­i­tors sit in­side gilt frame. Genny, a new fa­ther him­self, and now in charge of the fam­ily busi­ness, seems to have a sliver of self-in­sight: “My fa­ther wasn’t mur­dered. What killed him was the poi­son we all carry in­side.”

This is po­etic, cer­tainly, but not en­tirely true: he was ac­tu­ally killed by Genny, Ciro and a bul­let to the head. You watch Go­mor­rah for its unswerv­ing grit­ti­ness, for the anti-tourism of its cracked and bro­ken city seen in sin­is­ter dark green hues. But if its plen­ti­fully as­signed deaths don’t carry much weight, it is be­cause the show never al­lows its char­ac­ters any time to live.

Trans hu­man­ist de­tec­tive story

Death is just an in­con­ve­nience in Al­tered

Car­bon (Netflix, from Fri­day), though, as re­versible as chang­ing a stained shirt or restart­ing the level of a videogame. Based on the cult 2002 novel by Richard K. Mor­gan, and set in a dis­tant fu­ture where con­scious­ness is stored on a cor­ti­cal stack (a glo­ri­fied USB stick at the top of your spine), and bod­ies are so in­ter­change­able they’re known as “sleeves”,

Al­tered Car­bon is es­sen­tially a tran­shu­man­ist de­tec­tive story.

Part brood­ing neo-noir, part bright fan­tasy, part porn search, it pushes much of the ac­tion into vir­tual spa­ces, space­ships or strip clubs, pitched squarely at the cor­ti­cal stacks of ado­les­cent boys or what­ever sleeves they roll up in.

For those who found it trou­ble­some to see Scar­lett Jo­hans­son play Maj Mo­toko Ku­sanagi in Ghost in the Shell, cast­ing the chis­eled Swede Joel Kin­na­man as badass pro­tag­o­nist Takashi Ko­vacs will seem like a mean joke. White­wash­ing may be part of the plot, but while a Latina grand­mother might be “spun up” into the body of a white skin­head, or a black woman re­vived in the form of a slight white man, it never hap­pens the other way around. Watch­ing those body-swap­ping cameos feels like be­ing asked to ad­mire the ver­sa­tile per­for­mances of those white sleeves.

Kin­na­man, as ver­sa­tile as an oak tree, does not seem to have been re­tained for his flex­i­bil­ity. Like a Philip Mar­lowe kept in deep-freeze, the wise-crack mum­bling Takashi is re­vived after 250 years at the be­hest of a mega-rich client, Lau­rence Ban­croft, and im­me­di­ately turned into an­other work­ing stiff.

“All I ask of you is to solve a mur­der,” says Bankroft. “Whose?” asks Takashi. “Mine!” says ab­so­lutely ev­ery­body watch­ing. Sub­tlety is not Al­tered Car­bon’s strong suit.

But what is? To make mat­ters brood­ier, Takashi checks into an “AI ho­tel” called The Raven run by Edgar Allen Poe, whose def­er­en­tial and vi­o­lent as­sis­tance is the clos­est the show comes to com­edy, and the fur­thest thing you can get from Edgar Allen Poe. (Its more hi­lar­i­ous ma­noeu­vres, where full-frontal nu­dity is oth­er­wise plen­ti­ful, is the ab­surd lengths it goes to con­ceal Kin­na­man’s frontal.)

If the ti­tle it­self seems to sug­gest that noth­ing is orig­i­nal, just vari­a­tions on the same sub­stance, that seems like the showrun­ners guid­ing logic. Each episode of­fers a fur­ther knots to the plot and a sen­sa­tion­ally vi­o­lent fight, over rain-soaked views of a sleazy neon city and a clutch of 1940s noir throw­backs.

Blade Run­ner meets Blade Run­ner meets Blade Run­ner. That’s the prob­lem with the fu­ture, which is so sel­dom al­tered th­ese days. We’ve seen it all be­fore.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: NETFLIX / SKY AT­LANTIC / TV3

Joel Kin­na­man in new sci-fi drama Al­tered

Car­bon; Sal­va­tore Es­pos­ito in se­ries three of Mafia drama Go­mor­rah; Pat Kenny, re­turn­ing to TV3 for a new se­ries of his cur­rent-af­fairs show.

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