Dangerous Dan needs fresh air
The Clinic (RTE1, SUNDAY)
When Piers Met Sir Cliff (ITV, Saturday)
Some television bad guys are just too bad for their own good. Take plastic surgeon Dr Dan Woodhouse from The Clinic, which returned last night for a credibility defying seventh series.
Dan, splendidly played by Dominic Mafham, is so much bigger and so much badder than anyone else in The Clinic that the walls can barely contain his presence. He's so shifty and untrustworthy that before he even opens his mouth to utter a denial, you already know he's lying. You could ask Dan for the time and be sure he'd set you running 10 minutes fast or 10 minutes slow.
In fact, we were barely 10 minutes into last night's episode and Dan had already escaped a murder charge for kicking someone to death and blackmailed a HIV-positive colleague into helping him wriggle out of the consequences of overcharging for drugs.
Dan is a class-A bastard, a JR for D4, and he's worthy of a bigger showcase -- a tale of corporate skullduggery, perhaps, or the intrigues of a royal court -- in which to wreak havoc.
The downside of having such a vivid central character is that it makes everything else about The Clinic seem small, dull and artificial by comparison. For all the slickness, the (mostly) high quality of the acting and the satisfyingly preposterous storylines, you never get the sense that there's a wider world beyond the claustrophobic confines of the Clarence Road Clinic.
Like a soap opera on a bigger budget, The Clinic exists in a bubble. There are plenty of exterior establishing shots of a picture-postcard Dublin scattered throughout every episode, yet most of the action takes place indoors.
The sets, whether for the interior of the clinic itself or for the world's least convincing nightclub -- where another character, receptionist Ruairi (Aidan Turner), moonlights as a DJ -- never look like anything other than sets. If I was a script doctor I'd recommend that The Clinic gets outside and takes some exercise. If nothing else, it would provide dangerous Dan with a few more characters to screw over.
When Piers Met Sir Cliff offered the spectacle of the Peter Pan of Pop, Cliff Richard, being interviewed at his Barbados holiday home by the Sultan of Smug, Piers Morgan.
Christian Cliff may be tragically unhip these days yet he emerged from the encounter as a perfectly nice, if mildly eccentric and understandably guarded, man who values his loyal friends highly. He subtly made it clear that the unctuous, slithery Morgan isn't one of them.
"How many people out there know the truth about your sexuality," asked Morgan.
"I can't think of anyone I would have spoken to that directly," replied Cliff, coolly.
"Even closest friends?"
"My closest friends wouldn't even ask me about things like that."
"Of course not," said Cliff. "They would think -- I would think -- it would be downright rude of them."
Good on you, Cliff!
The Clinic **
When Piers Met Sir Cliff ***