Tuesday 26 March 2019

Weekend TV: Clean Break hits ground running, but Ray D'Arcy's chat show falls flat

Clean Break: (L-R) Damien Molony, Aidan McArdle, Adam Fergus and Kelly Thornton
Clean Break: (L-R) Damien Molony, Aidan McArdle, Adam Fergus and Kelly Thornton
Ray D'Arcy with Donncha O'Callaghan on the first The Ray D'Arcy Show

WE CAN probably take it that every crime-themed drama RTE makes from now on will be touted as “the next Love/Hate”.

 Mercifully, Billy Roche’s four-part tiger kidnapping yarn Clean Break puts plenty of clear water between it and Stuart Carolan’s Dublin gangland saga.

The manner in which the taut first episode crisply established the characters and situations reminded me in some ways of Fargo, another drama set in a town where everybody has secrets and few people are what they seem to be.

Wexford businessman Frank Mallon (Adam Fergus) is in trouble. His car dealership is down the tubes. His estranged wife, who owns half his property assets, lives in the Isle of Man, and his teenage daughter Corrina (Kelly Thornton) is going off the rails.

Bank manager Desmond Raine (a splendidly shifty Aidan McArdle) tells Frank he’s going to lose everything and gives him 10 days to get his affairs in order.

Frank knows Raine takes regular cash deposits in the hundreds of thousands from a local gangster and casino owner and stores them in the vault overnight. What he doesn’t know is that this guy has just killed his former boss and dumped his body in a river.

Frank hires local lowlife Noel Blake (the ever-menacing Ned Dennehy) and his violent sidekick to kidnap Raine’s wife (Simone Kirby), with whom Frank has romantic history, and young daughter.

Frank also ropes his newest employee, former Olympic boxing hopeful Danny Dempsey (Damian Molony), into the scheme. The essentially kind-hearted Danny is out of his depth as a kidnapper.


The operation goes horribly wrong when the little girl recognises him by his voice and he’s forced to flee. An excellent start to what could be a cracker of a series.

Ray D'Arcy with Donncha O'Callaghan on the first The Ray D'Arcy Show

Ray D'Arcy with Donncha O'Callaghan on the first The Ray D'Arcy Show

Ray D’Arcy announced in advance that his new chat show wouldn’t  be “reinventing the wheel”. Fair enough. Nobody expected it to. What you would expect, though, is that the wheel would at least have a little air in its tyre.

The first edition was so dismally flat, it cried out for a bicycle pump and a puncture plaster. D’Arcy bounced on, confessed to feeling the pressure and then embarked on a drawn-out and not particularly amusing anecdote about how things were at home. There was more domestic chit-chat from ex-Munster rugby star Donncha O’Callaghan, who talked about his newborn son’s sleeping habits.

All very cosy, all very dull, while the next guest, Sean O’Brien, the obese man whose nightclub dancing went viral on the internet, was already old news long ago.

Around the bend, however, lurked a car waiting to crash. Former X Factor judge Tulisa refused point blank to talk about her recent, well-publicised controversies (“We’re not going to go there, and you know that”), which left very little to fill up 20 minutes. Why the hell bother booking her in the first place?

When in doubt, bring Tommy Tiernan out. “Should I tear up my cards?” said D’Arcy, doing just that as Tiernan embarked on a typically outrageous riff about erectile dysfunction – his “soft mickey stage”, as he put it.

Even allowing for first-night nerves – and D’Arcy looked awkward and stilted throughout – it was, Tiernan apart, a dire show. No wit, no originality, no compelling reason to exist, really. The only spark came from the hundreds of bulbs illuminating the flashy set.

I was no fan of The Saturday Night Show, but if Brendan O’Connor was watching, he must be wondering what he did wrong.


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