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Monday 10 December 2018

Wedding jitters ruin the big party

Belonging to Laura (TV3)
EastEnders (RTE1/BBC1)

Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde wasn't exactly screaming out for an updated makeover; yet even if it had been, did it have to be quite as chilly and unengaging as Belonging to Laura?

Laura (willowy Christina Carty) lives in a big house in leafy South County Dublin, where she's surrounded by a coterie of loyal and devoted friends. She's due to marry beefy, designer-stubbled architect Tiernan (Brendan McCormack) in a lavish marquee ceremony, but the preparations are rocked by a bombshell.

The day before the wedding, her VBF Leanne (Aisling Bea) and best man Oisin (Michael FitzGerald) -- who is not-so-secretly carrying a torch for Laura -- tell her that her husband-to-be was seen getting up close and personal with a mysterious Russian blonde during his stag party.

Laura confronts Tiernan; he admits that he "might" have slept with the woman but can't be sure because he was hammered drunk at the time. After much soul-searching, Laura decides to go through with the wedding anyway.

But then said blonde, who's called Sascha (Tatiana Ouliankina, last seen in Fair City), turns up at the wedding rehearsals and the scene is set for an explosive showdown. The explosion never quite happens, however, as the characters circle one another, seemingly engaged in a war of smouldering looks and meaningful silences.

It transpires that there's nothing naughty going on between Sascha and Tiernan. She's actually Laura's real mother (though Laura never finds this out), who was impregnated by Laura's absent father on a business trip and smuggled into Ireland to have the baby, and she's been putting the squeeze on Tiernan for hush money.

When she meets her daughter, though, she has a change of heart, slips away as quietly as she appeared and the wedding goes ahead.

Despite the downbeat subject matter, Belonging to Laura presents Dublin as Richard Curtis might have imagined it: full of pretty, one-dimensional, middle-class stereotypes with impeccable hair and clothes, who toss out supposedly witty one-liners with the ease of someone who has a copy of the script stored on their iPhone.

Inevitably, there's a stereotypical gay best friend, Ciaran, played with flamboyant hollowness and a big pair of spectacles by Domhnall O'Donoghue, who minces around making tart, mildly smutty observations and secretly fancies Tiernan.

Even the priest (Eamonn Hunt), who's officiating at the wedding, is so achingly trendy he has no problem trading banter with Ciaran (the last time we looked, wasn't the church damning homosexuals to hell?).

Belonging to Laura apparently underwent a couple of title changes during production and that uncertainty was reflected in the choppy script and the varying tone of the performances.

Santa popped up in EastEnders. Not a Santa impersonator but the real thing, dropping in on Mo to spread some much-needed Christmas cheer (I swear I'm not making this up). Still, we know he won't be able to prevent another miserable Christmas. The words "jump" and "shark" come to mind.

FOR TOMORROW: Pat reviews The Day of the Triffids (BBC1, except NI) and watches his toes curl during Terry and June (BBC2)

STACEY'S STARS

Belonging to Laura **

EastEnders *

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