TV and Radio
The Young Offenders bring their glorious troubles to the small screen; winning the Lotto proves unexpectedly costly for some; and an extended The Tonight Show risks drying up in conversation
Screen and sound reviews
For all its buzzy and brisk editing, which can give the action the manic slam of a comic strip and the strut of a hip-hop video, the delight of the show is in its small moments, its comically tangled and effortlessly touching vision of friendship
If you’ve already met Conor and Jock, the delinquent stars of Peter Foott’s glorious coming-of-age caper The Young Offenders, you shouldn’t be surprised to see them back again so soon. The two Cork teenagers were never going to stay out of trouble for long.
If you haven’t had the pleasure, though, Foott’s television version (RTÉ2, Thurday, 9.30pm) is ready to make our introductions again. High up on a rooftop, in their matching severe haircuts and wispy adolescent moustaches, Chris Walley’s outgoing and widely-vilified schemer, Jock, and Alex Murphy’s impressionable, permanently confused accomplice, Conor, are stealing lead, ready to sell it, perchance to buy sex dolls.
It says something about how exquisitely well cast Walley and Murphy are in the parts, and how routinely but affectionately Foott will puncture their plans, that they never seem less than adorable. Jock’s giddy sex-doll fantasy is deflated when he assigns it an exotic name (“That’s a guy’s name; Rueben,” clarifies Conor). And the scheme is derailed by Sergeant Healy (“A shit Irish Terminator”), forever in hot pursuit as they cycle breathlessly through a lovingly shot Cork city.
Stealing lead or bicycles may count as a get-rich-slow scheme: whereas the film followed a grand adventure to salvage a ¤7m bale of cocaine, the television series brings their dreams and their payoffs back down to size. It also curbs some of the earlier incarnation’s more cartoonish excesses, retaining the film’s outlandish baddie PJ Gallagher to play an exasperated school principal instead. If anything, those adjustments make the comedy more confident. When no one gives you a chance, growing up is challenging enough.
For all its buzzy and brisk editing, which can give the action the manic slam of a comic strip and the strut of a hip-hop video, the delight of the show is in its small moments, its comically tangled and effortlessly touching vision of friendship. Conor struggles to understand it, and then to make it understood. “No ma, I’m not gay,” he attempts, in conversation with Hilary Rose’s marvellously flawed young mother. “But if I were, he’d be the guy I’d like to be gay with.” Between Derry Girls and The End of the F***ing
World, there are plenty of ways to see life through teenage eyes, as unfair and as funny as it is. They may act tough, but The Young Offenders might be the most innocent of them all.
Cork in the eye
Be careful what you wish for, suggests We Won the Lotto (RTé One, Monday, 9.35pm), a documentary about the grimmer realities behind the fantasy, whose effect is like a champagne cork popping and hitting you full force in the eye.
Imagine, for instance, arriving to the gleaming white winners room of the National Lottery headquarters and welcomed into fortune by a video of Craig Doyle. “Right,” beams virtual Craig, seemingly from a budget heaven, “it seems that you’re sitting comfortably and you have a glass of something bubbly to hand…” For that money, I would want the real Craig Doyle.
Yet this disappointment serves as a useful introduction to director Marion Cullen’s exploration of the lottery and its discontents, even as the programme tries to preserve its effervescent fantasy for as long as possible.
Only 5 per cent of Irish winners go public and, of those, Cullen’s five winners seem less a representative sample than a collection of the innocent and the idiosyncratic.
The first winner of a significant jackpot we meet is Billy Comer, whose ¤1.97 million bonanza in 1994, brought him, bizarrely, closer to the astronomical levels of wealth within his own family. “Oh Janey,” he recalls his property developer brother Brian saying at the news, “welcome to the club.”
Whether it was sibling rivalry, unbridled fantasy or just bad luck that propelled Billy into a series of bad investments, buying up pubs in Galway, he does not say.
“A million pounds isn’t an awful lot if you do the wrong things with it,” he says. “The recession really took its toll,” he says. “Depression took its toll as well.”
Vincent Keaney may laugh about it, with mystifying gaiety, but his story is very similar. Winning £1 million in 1994, he bought the dole office in Cobh and turned it into a Titanic-themed bar and restaurant, mortgaging his home when it ran into debt. “It hit an iceberg
and I think I hit one too,” he laughs, over a diaphanous music clip that seems just as blasé.
Perhaps, like Keaney, the show is slow to burst the bubble, but it hits the jackpot with the staggering ironies of his story, or the astonishing statistic that 70 per cent of US Lotto winners declare bankruptcy within 20 years. Craig Doyle seems unlikely to tell you, but winning the lottery can be extremely costly. “If I never won the lottery I’m almost 1,000 per cent sure I’d be living here,” Keaney says of his dream house, sunk with the Titanic. “But you can’t deny good luck. Good luck came with a price.” Now, there’s a chilling thought. It could be you.
Early this week, Matt Cooper, the generally tieless co-host of The Tonight Show (Monday-Thursday, TV3, 11pm), sounded concerned. “How frustrating is this?” he asked. “We’ve been talking about the same issue since late 2014 and yet we just keep having the same conversations?”
It was the show’s first night since extending its schedule to four nights a week, and though the subject was the housing crisis – about which it is easy to feel all talked out – the question did not bode well. Is there really enough conversation to go round?
It may not have helped that the show arrived to a blue Monday. Opening with a lengthy panel conversation on loneliness, it afforded its panel an unhurried précis of the subject, from psychologist Maureen Gaffney’s illuminating context and businesswoman Norah Casey’s frank personal account, to a candid assessment of digital alienation and diminished human contact from man of the people, Senator David Norris. “My secretary, Miriam, who’s wonderful, has to book airline tickets for me,” he said. With only our wonderful secretaries for company, which of us could not relate?
The Tonight Show, on the other hand, loves company, requiring in Cooper and Ivan Yates two male presenters to fill the space vacated by the sulphuric Vincent Browne, and several bodies to make its capacious set – a soothing swoosh of blue and cyan – seem less empty. Cooper and Ivan Yates are not quite as dissimilar as their contrasting approaches to neckwear and occasional joshing would have us believe, though, and the programme often lacks productive friction.
If Monday’s conversations were civil, Tuesday’s were a blood sport, opening with a discussion of the National Development Plan, “a political football” as Yates put it, which Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon and Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte were invited to kick, along with each other.
Only economist Colm McCarthy seemed willing to hold anyone’s feet to the fire, though, with an unswerving adherence to data and a simple, yet tellingly unanswerable question to the squabbling politicians about how the cost of promised universal fibre-optic broadband could ever be met. The blather that followed was all talk.
The National Development Plan is still, notoriously, a draft document, and that made Cooper’s wrap-up remarks sound like the fulfilment of his own prophetic worries. “When it is ready we’ll have a big discussion about it,” he promised. How frustrating is this? We just keep having the same conversations.
Alex Murphy and Chris Walley in The Young Offenders; Lotto winner Vincent Keaney from Cobh in We Won the Lotto; Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates from The Tonight Show.