Wednesday 26 October 2016

Will America learn to love their own Love/Hate?

Tom Vaughan Lawlor as Nidge in the RTÉ crime drama
Tom Vaughan Lawlor as Nidge in the RTÉ crime drama

LOVE/HATE has been off our screens for six months now and looks increasingly unlikely to return.

RTE would, of course, love to have a sixth season of the most successful drama in its history.

So, presumably, would the hardcore fans who didn’t seem to mind that the gangland saga, which was superb in its second and third seasons, lost its way completely in its fourth. Some of us also feel it never convincingly recovered in the run-up to the bloody finale of the fifth.

The series’ creator and sole writer, Stuart Carolan, said last week he doesn’t have the energy to do another one, which seems to be a way of saying “That’s all, folks!” without actually coming out and saying it.

But the Love/Hate hype machine — a noisy contraption when it’s at full throttle — has jerked into action again with the news that an American remake could genuinely be on the cards.

There have been murmurings about a remake for years; a lot of the time this seemed to be nothing more than shape-throwing by RTE drama honchos who, high on the series’ ratings success, simply couldn’t stop talking — and talking and talking and talking — about how Love/Hate was the greatest thing since sliced white Goodfellas (that’s the Martin Scorsese movie, by the way, not the brand of frozen pizza).

This time, though, the talk is justified. The great American, Dennis Lehane, who was in Dublin last week, revealed that he’s currently working on a draft script for a pilot episode set in Oahu, a rundown area of Hawaii.

Lehane, who just happens to be one of my favourite novelists, is the obvious choice to retool Love/Hate for the US audience. His crime-fiction pedigree is impeccable. Three of his novels, Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone, Baby, Gone, were turned into excellent movies, and he also wrote scripts for two great American crime series, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that he’s the son of Irish emigrants, born and raised in Boston, where he still lives, and would perhaps have an understanding of the source material that some other American writers might lack.

But, without wishing to rain on anyone’s parade here, let’s park the bus for a moment and gain some perspective. If Lehane’s finished script is filmed, it doesn’t automatically mean we’ll eventually see a full series of Love/Hate Hawaii-style.

Pilots are stand-alone episodes, designed to sell a series to a network. Variety estimates that of the 20 or more pilots each US network commissions every year, only three or four will make it to a full series. Lehane himself said last week: “Either we’re going to be green-lit in the next two months, or it’s not going to happen.”

Some pilots don’t get beyond being screened for network executives. Several years ago, a pilot for an updated series of The Rockford Files was filmed but deemed unfit for broadcast. Plans to revive the classic private-eye show were quietly scrapped.

In the fiercely competitive US TV world, a series being a runaway success in its own country counts for nothing. The American version of the BBC’s Life on Mars went through two pilots and a change of cast and location (from New York to LA), yet the series still failed to connect with the US


Other failed remakes of “foreign” series include Cracker, Skins, The Inbetweeners, The Killing, Prime Suspect and The IT Crowd.

I hope the Love/Hate remake clicks, and with Lehane in charge, it has a great chance. But let’s not count our dead cats just yet.

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