On the Roads RTÉ One, Monday, 8.30pm
Zoo Live RTE One, Tuesday, 7pm
The Newsreader RTÉ2, Tuesday, 9pm
Everything I Know About Love BBC One, Tuesday, 11.10pm
Every summer, Love Island returns, and every summer I wonder if I was too harsh on it last time. Lots of people enjoy it. It can’t be that bad, right?
Then I start watching again and am reminded how much I hate it.
It’s just so shamelessly cynical, with narrator Iain Stirling (husband of presenter Laura Whitmore) declaring from the off that producers had “tracked down the smartest, most talented young people in the country – and asked them if they had any fit mates who wanted to go on the telly”.
It was a funny line, but this really is how they think of their contestants. The makers pretend to care about them – and to be concerned about their mental well-being – but they don’t.
From the moment they are presented, it’s as if they are already famous characters who know how to play the fame game, when in truth they are sacrificial lambs.
Within moments, contestant Dami from Dublin was telling everyone about the heart-shaped birthmark on the end of his “love stick”, while another broke the ice with the girl he had been “coupled up” with by asking about her favourite sex position.
It may be popular, but it’s just unremittingly awful stuff.
Finding anything at all to say about On the Roads is difficult since it’s not entirely clear what the programme is meant to be.
According to the RTÉ Guide, this new four-part series is “about road safety and climate action”; but what does that even mean?
Presenter Simon Delaney began by going out on patrol with gardaí and other police forces around Europe to see how they crack down on bad driving.
As such, it was reminiscent of the shows one might see late at night on Channel Five, such as Police Interceptors, featuring car chases, arrests and police raids.
But then it’s as if someone in RTÉ decided that wasn’t worthy enough in itself, so asked Oddboy Media, the independent production company behind the show, to tack on a climate change angle, perhaps to offset recent criticism of the broadcaster for being lacklustre on environmental issues.
The two halves didn’t connect at all naturally, making for a rather bafflingly half-baked half hour.
Zoo Live was equally puzzling. RTÉ has constructed a purpose-built studio in Dublin Zoo from which to broadcast nightly updates on how keepers look after the animals. The concept is fine. Springwatch does something similar to great success.
The execution is, alas, less assured, mainly because no one seems to have decided what kind of show they were making.
That left co-presenters Sinead Kennedy and Ella McSweeney to wing it as they went along – a particular shame in the case of Ear to the Ground’s McSweeney, who’s a serious journalist with a background in zoology.
The result was akin to children’s TV, with school kids even being asked at one point to identify different types of animal poo, and celebrities on hand each night to play at being zookeepers.
The first night it was 2FM’s Doireann Garrihy, who got to hang out with the elephants.
Good for her, it looked fun. But who was the intended audience?
The Newsreader is an award- winning six part Australian drama series about an ambitious but insecure young male reporter and an older alpha female TV frontwoman deemed too demanding by her sexist bosses who are thrown together in a 1980s newsroom and set about pushing each other to where they want to be.
The show matches their fictional story alongside real-life news events, such as the explosion on board the space shuttle in 1986 in the first episode.
It’s pacey, with some great performances, and has a stylistic authenticity that makes it look as if it could genuinely have been made in the 1980s. Think Mad Men for the yuppie generation.
With only six episodes in total, it never outstays its welcome and manages to say something timely about the showbizification of news, while not forgetting to have fun with the story and setting. It’s well worth watching.
The same goes for Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton’s adaptation of her 2019 memoir about being a single twentysomething millennial woman navigating what her alter ego Maggie describes as that “grubby golden phase of life.”
Described like that, it probably sounds like familiar territory – and it is. Maggie and her friends drink and smoke too much, and keep falling for men they know deep down are terrible. It has a distinct Bridget Jones-type feel to it, with the same touching exploration of the consolations and stresses of female friendship.
It’s even made by the same company, Working Title, who produced all those Richard Curtis-penned rom-coms in the late 1990s and early Noughties, echoes of which are scattered throughout.
It could have been more tightly edited, perhaps by cutting down on the extended dance sequences. There’s a great 30-minute sitcom episode inside each 44-minute instalment. Call me a prude, but I also think there’s too much gratuitous nudity.
But while it sometimes gave the impression of trying too hard to be charming, it was charming enough to get away with it.
Everything I Know About Love doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s funny and warm and engaging, with a cast of young actors who feel like normal people rather than slick Love Island caricatures, and isn’t that enough?