East meets West, and it all goes south as new TV drama fails to woo ‘locals’

September 12th, 2020 11:40 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Time for a row: the Cork flag in the background of this dreary pub doesn’t make it any more believable.

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WE have been ruined by Normal People. Now, every time we hear the words ‘Irish drama’ we imagine hours of delicious Sunday night binge-watching ahead, perfect pandemic distraction.

And so it was when The South Westerlies was announced as the new must-view Sunday night series on RTÉ. Even better – it was to be ‘set’ in West Cork, though we were warned that a lot of sections were filmed in Wicklow. Another leafy coastal location, sure how bad can it be?, we wondered. Very bad. Very bad indeed. I had, wrongly, assumed that the reason Wicklow was going to masquerade as a poor man’s West Cork was probably because most of the Cork scenes would be set indoors and we wouldn’t know the difference.

Well, apparently not. Apart from a Wicklow town masquerading as ‘Carrigeen’ in West Cork, there was the horror of seeing the ancient Wicklow Head old greystone lighthouse looming large in one shot – a modern lighthouse would have been less obviously out of place.

Now, before all the Star’s Wicklow readers send me irate emails, I am married to a Wicklow man. And while it’s a beautiful county, its landscape, being, em on the east coast, means its shorelines bear little, if any, resemblance to the Wild Atlantic Way.

Then we had the bizarre accents – the lad replying ‘Aye’ to a question (not exactly a local Cork response, eh Donegal readers?) and another guy referring to his ‘mudder’ – more West Dublin than West Cork.

In fairness, we had a few ‘locals’ in there to help out – Kinsale’s Tara Flynn playing the over-excitable Cork County Council receptionist who has no concept of data protection laws, and has all the planning files at the front desk.

Oh and their ‘county buildings’ looks more like a Teagasc branch office than the landmark construction that is the real County Hall – once Ireland’s tallest building.

At least city girl Eileen Walsh’s accent is a bit closer to home.

But then we had the obvious stereotyping of the mad West Corkies who hate any kind of progress, protest at everything, love their home-baking, have no broadband/wifi or phone signals and engage in the odd fisticuffs in the dark dreary pub. Oh, and the token pretty girl with the English accent who’s a bit wild and hippy.

The cutesy incidental music has shades of Killinascully, or is it Ballykissangel?

Which would be lovely, only this isn’t 1996 or 2004, it’s 2020.

Twitter was alight with irate Corkies on Sunday night, and no wonder. ‘Cast a bunch of Dubs to play West-Corkonians, what could go wrong?’ asked one. He forgot to add ‘ … and film it on the east coast.’

What could possibly go wrong, indeed.

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