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Sunday 22 October 2017

Love/Hate needs to up its game if it's to compete with a nation of experts

Time to get reacquainted with the gang. On Sunday night Stuart Carolan's troubled masterpiece Love/Hate will return to RTE One for its fifth season.

Questions will be answered, story arcs concluded, heroes (and villains), rewarded. Well, we can only hope.

Has Tommy finally bitten the dust? Is King Nidge's empire about to crumble? Will the dentist (or that bloody cat) come back from the dead?

For now, it's unclear. Whatever happens, it had better be good. It needs to be.

It's easy to forget that when Love/Hate first aired in October 2010, everyone laughed at it.

PRIDE

Here we had a gritty, street-smart crime drama that took pride in its supposedly realistic settings and characters, but that let itself down with a ropey script and questionable acting.

Too many nice haircuts; too much hip hop; Nidge was just a weaselling sidekick.

The critics spoke - so, too, did its audience. Carolan and his boys needed to up their game.

Which they did, mind, and in spectacular fashion. Season two and three delivered, and then some.

So, what happened last year? I'll tell you what - the lads copped out, and the 2013 run crumbled under the weight of heavy padding, intricate sub-plots, and bloated, cat-and-mouse pursuits.

Sure, the directing and acting sparkled, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor played a blinder as Nidge, but the story stood still. We stuck it out - we presumed it was going somewhere. It wasn't.

Now, we need a home run.

See, Love/Hate also arrived at a time when most of us were still getting accustomed to the wonders of Netflix.

In a week when a new survey showed that more than a million Irish viewers are bingeing on their favourite television shows online (Dubliners, in particular, are way ahead of the curve) will the six-week long 'novelty' of a show such as Love/Hate survive?

Maybe. It all depends on the quality of Carolan's writing and the quality of the story he tells.

Personally, I prefer to take my time with a series - one or two episodes in a single sitting.

It builds suspense and increases interest. In short, it makes a show more enjoyable. After all, it's not a race.

In recent years, Love/Hate has more or less changed the way the Irish watch television.

Its brief yet memorable run in the weeks leading up to Christmas has brought together a community of almost a million viewers every Sunday night, most of them taking to Twitter afterwards to engage in discussions.

pedestal

That's some achievement. But 12 months is a long time in TV land - are we prepared once more to invest six weeks of our lives into a series that may or may not satisfy our viewing needs?

I am, but I do wonder if everyone else is.

What's important is that we've put Love/Hate on a pedestal. We've compared it to some of the greatest dramas in the world, like The Wire and The Sopranos.

It can't afford to lose the run of itself again, not least when there are so many other options available to viewers.

Yep, it's up against the bingers, and now, the greatest Irish television drama of all time is at a critical crossroads. It'd be a shame for it to take the wrong turn again.

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