After RTE saw through it’s latest season of Love/Hate in queue-sharpening style, it confirmed that the so-called Golden Age of television has spread to this side of the Atlantic at last. The era, which in the last decade has seen the rise to prominence of The Soprano’s, The Wire and more latterly Mad Men and Breaking Bad amongst many others, is almost almost unprecedented in the medium. Not since the 1940’s when domestic viewing was in it’s formative stages have a group of shows put down such a trailblazing marker.
Where Breaking Bad broke new ground in transforming a mild-mannered and ailing chemistry teacher into a murderous kingpin in front of our very eyes, Love/Hate managed to get RTE to part with a little cash. €600,000 was the reported cost of producing each episode, a figure that could seemingly give you 15 full seasons of Fair City. It’s a testament to the creator Stuart Carolan that the show has managed to survive and thrive despite the constant maiming of the show’s central characters year after year, something that hardly subsided in the most previous, blood-pumping season. Flaws n’ all, (the most notable being Nidges grating Dub/Cockney hybrid twang) it hold its own next to any Emmy-laden show that’s out there.
Channel 4’s Utopia, a show that in the blink of an eye has been premiered and poleaxed, was also one of the better offering’s of a network that’s synonymous with the more gritty, ‘out there’ TV shows. A conspiracy thriller about a comic book that foretells the great disasters of the world, Utopia was almost universally praised by those who saw it, but the bottom line wasn’t enough for Channel 4 who cancelled it after two intense but thoroughly entertaining runs. One of the most visually striking show’s you’re likely to see anywhere on the box, it’s still on 4od if you haven’t caught it yet.
Going forward, The Golden Age will hopefully give us a few more classic shows before it’s inevitable halt. RTE’s sparse output of home-grown drama and comedies over the years has been unfortunate and not least frustrating. Here’s hoping Love/Hate will give them a shot in the arm (pun kind of intended) to take more risks in the future. In saying that, for every Love/Hate or Prosperity (RTE’s last triumphant foray into the world of original programming) there’s a few examples like The English Class. If you don’t remember it, I’d rather not remind you.
Strike while the iron’s hot, RTE.