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Don't be deceived by this drama

If there's one good thing to be said about Deception, TV3's first-ever original drama series, it's that the writer, Gert Thomas, has impeccable taste in surnames.

There's a character in it called Andrew Stacey. No relation, obviously. He's tall, dark and handsome, while I'm, well, NOT. Beyond this briefly amusing coincidence, there's not a lot else about the characters in Deception to identify with.

Most of them are unlikeable, a few are thoroughly obnoxious, and there's not a single thing remotely convincing about any of them. It's probably advisable when planning a six-part drama set in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland that you hope will swiftly win over the audience not to make one of your central characters the pampered, rich-bitch wife of a property developer. Deception, however, does exactly that.

This would be Caitriona French (Leigh Arnold), a swaggering Galway socialite. We're immediately made aware of Caitriona's social standing by the fact that she totters around on mile-high heels and wears sunglasses, even when there isn't any sun.

Caitriona returns from the US, where she's been having some cosmetic surgery (not immediately visible behind those big sunglasses, it has to be said), to find her husband Jack (Conor Mullen), a former rugby international whose smirking face decorates the billboards of his developments, has disappeared, presumed dead.

To rub salt in the wound, she discovers Jack has gone bust, the house has been repossessed and the bailiffs are carting off everything they can lay their hands on, from the furniture to the shiny 4x4 monster in the driveway to Caitriona's clothes. This may well explain why she spends the entire episode wearing the same outfit, a garish combo which suggests not so much mutton dressed as lamb as a mouldy chop disinterred from the furthest recesses of the freezer.

Luckily, however, all is not lost. Family friend Andrew has managed to retrieve her jewellery from the safe, which at least means she has something to sell off if she's ever in dire need of a new pair of designer shades. Or a change of clothes.

It goes without saying that Jack is not dead after all. This is a great pity, since he turns out to be almost as much of a monumental pain in the arse as Caitriona. She discovers him stretched out in the middle of a rugby field; it seems his car ran out of petrol while he was trying to make his escape.

The upshot is that Caitriona and Jack have to move into a house on one of his half-finished ghost estates. This brief respite is shattered, though, when the body of a man who's been murdered is discovered in one of the vacant properties.

The gruesome discovery is made by a surly local teenager. Rather than ringing 999, he decides to make a little money off the tragedy by charging his mates a small fee to come in and have a gawp -- you know, as you do when you find someone lying on a floor with half their face blown off.

It transpires that the estate is a hotbed of intrigue where every family is harbouring a dark secret.

Think Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane, transported -- minus the black comedy and occasional flashes of wit -- to a Galway suburb where, bizarrely, none of the residents sound like anyone from Galway I've ever met.

I have to stress at this point that I'm writing this review with the aid of some publicity bumph from TV3's press site.

Frankly, I'd be lost without it, because the first half-hour of Deception was an incoherent, perplexing mess, full of terrible, clunky dialogue and performances that ranged from hammy to hysterical.

Characters, including Caitriona and Jack's nauseating son and a drug-ferrying taxi driver called Colleen, who turns out to be the dead man's estranged wife, flitted in and out without introduction or explanation.

But you could issue viewers with a dossier on Deception and it still wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. Never mind half-baked; this hasn't even reached the oven.

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