Sunday, February 18, 2018

Do You Want to Know a Secret?

Season 22, Episode 48
First aired 15 February 2018

We open upstairs at the pub, where it seems a garbage truck has overturned and spilled its contents onto the kitchen table. Frances enters and looks horrified by the carnage, and her mood isn’t improved when Tadhg drinks the last drop of milk directly from the carton and then burps in her face. What a lucky woman Maggie is! Frances tells him this can’t continue, although he is of the opinion that it absolutely can, and when she tries to say all the noise and mess are unfair on Áine, he counters that Áine could sleep through a 747 landing in her bedroom and couldn’t care less about a mess as long as she can crawl over the half-eaten tacos and dead caribou to get to the TV. He notes that if Frances has a problem with it, she can always clean up after him, and then flounces off to go take a dump in the hall or whatever. Given that the detritus on the table suggests he’s eaten a couple of pizzas and half a lasagna since last night, there’s not going to be enough bleach in the world to clean that carpet up.

Pádraig stops by the hospital to drop off Sam’s belongings, which include a pristine soccer ball that’s never touched the ground and a backpack that’s never been used. Sonia seems muted somehow, in that she only half-heartedly tries to start a big fight with him for no reason, but then as he’s turning to leave, she asks him to wait a second, presumably so she can stagger gingerly over to him and stab him in the face with some bandage scissors.

Friday, February 16, 2018

I Don't Bring Me Flowers

Season 22, Episode 47
First aired 13 February 2018

We open in what seems to be the middle of the night with Frances, in her robe, wandering downstairs into the dark pub for some deep thought and perhaps light karaoke. “Love Shack” always cheers me up. She pours herself a Bahama Mama or similar before thinking better of it and dumping it out, and then takes this opportunity to look meaningfully at her wedding ring and then take it off even more meaningfully. It’s very considerate of her to do this down here where we can see it rather than up in her bedroom where we couldn’t. I don’t care what Tadhg says, Frances is not a complete raicleach. Only 40 percent raicleach, tops.

At Berni’s, Briain has set up a somewhat ludicrous Valentine’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner for her, and he has gone all out, serving her chocolate milk in hollowed-out watermelons and having broken all her best china into shapes approximating hearts and so on. She tells him it’s too much, especially since all she got him was a four-pack of Curly Wurlys and an ego-boosting box of XL condoms, but he says it’s the least he can do, what with all the troublemaking and home-wrecking he’s been doing. Berni assures him that Evan is the one who’s causing all the trouble, not him, and it’s a nice sentiment, but I think we can agree that there’s plenty of blame to go around. She adds that she’s not going to let Evan keep Briain off the Frisbee or Scrabble team or away from the café, and he replies that he doesn’t care about the team despite the extreme thrillingness of Tadhg’s rental bus, but that he does need his job back, especially because of all the child support he has to pay. Remember when Briain had a deep, dark secret that had driven him away from Australia that we were supposed to care about and then they dropped it? Just as Berni starts undoing his buttons with her teeth, Bobbi-Lee enters and makes a variety of snide remarks and pukey faces, setting us up for our special Valentine’s Day theme, which is that Bobbi-Lee is hard up and can’t get a man and everyone in town thinks it’s hilarious. It’s too bad none of the parcels she’s been having delivered to the pub recently contained dynamite, because I can think of a few people she would be completely justified in blowing up, starting with these two.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

I Can't Help Falling in Seaweed with You

Season 22, Episode 46
First aired 8 February 2018

We’re back after a one-episode break, and unfortunately there will be no screenshots in this recap because for some reason TG4 has kindly changed their streaming technology to block them. Thanks, TG4! (If you miss the screenshots, which I often also use in my tweets to discuss and promote the show, please consider tweeting TG4 and asking them to change things back.)

It’s the morning of the big wedding, and Pádraig tells David he and Sam are on their way to the hospital to visit Sonia, but that he’ll see him at Gaudi later. He says he’s not looking forward to the inevitable tongue-lashing he’ll get from the lovely Sonia when/if she wakes up and finds that he’s been taking care of Sam all this time. Yes, as far as she’s concerned, it would have been better to put Sam into foster care like Helen suggested. Sonia really is the absolute worst. Pádraig leaves as Colm wanders in, and he’s completely hung over. You may recall from last episode that, in an elaborate scheme to keep David and Gráinne from seeing each other the day of the wedding, Colm is staying at David’s and Gráinne is staying at Mo’s. I have no idea why Gráinne couldn’t have just stayed at Mo’s with her and Colm while David stayed at home with Pádraig and Sam, but there will be a number of things this episode that don’t entirely make sense, so get used to it. Anyway, David’s going out for a walk and reminds Colm that he promised last night he’d join him, but Colm has no memory of this and argues that no court in the land would force him to honor a contract he made while he was puking vodka and Red Bull into David’s washing machine. David pressures him some more, but Colm stands firm and tells him to get out of his face and go take a long walk off a short pier.

At Mo’s, Caitríona is applying Gráinne’s makeup with a trowel while complaining that it looks like it’s going to rain, which is shocking given that Ireland is an arid desert. She points out that if Gráinne and David had taken them all to Bali for the wedding like she’s been carrying on about for the past two weeks, they wouldn’t have to worry about the rain. Right, because tropical islands like Bali are so green and lush because of the complete lack of rain. (Also, February is the rainy season in Bali.) On the other hand, if they’d taken Caitríona to Bali, maybe somebody could’ve pushed her into a volcano. Gráinne runs outside in a panic to look up at the sky and try to figure out where all that falling water is coming from, which gives Mo and Caitríona an opportunity to conspire about the surprise reception that’s been thrown together for the happy-ish couple at Tigh Thaidhg. Mo figures the place will look like crap and Gráinne will resent having been dragged there, but Caitríona is sure that party-planner Annette will have the place looking fabulous. Yes, she’ll pour glitter on the stickiest parts of the floor and then abscond with the till.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

My Day in Ros Na Rún, Finale

What’s it like to actually be in Ros na Rún—or, at least, the studio complex where Ros na Rún is filmed? In this final installment of My Day in Ros na Rún, I’ll talk about what it’s like to find yourself in Tigh Thaidhg or in Berni’s living room, and a few surprises I wasn’t expecting!

Annamaria Nic Dhonnacha (Bobbi-Lee) and Marie Bheag Breathnach (Mo) gave us a tour of all the sets, and the physical layout was absolutely fascinating to me. As I mentioned earlier, it was a bit strange at first to see and meet and interact with people I know from TV (“Oh my God, it’s Mack! And he can see me! And now he’s talking to me!”), but I got over that pretty quickly when I realized, “They’re just regular people.” But seeing and walking through the sets NEVER felt “normal” to me, from the first one we saw—the community center—to the last one. Being there is just WEIRD, and—here’s that word again—surreal.

There are two types of sets at Ros na Rún, and there is probably a technical term for them, but I don’t know what it is, so I’ll call them “interior/exterior” and “interior-only.” As you’ve seen, there are “streets” in Ros na Rún that the characters walk along and drive on, and sometimes they will walk from, say, the street to the shop, open the front door, and walk into the shop. I’m calling those “interior/exterior” sets because they exist as an exterior, inside which is the actual interior set for that location. So when you walk from the street into the front door of the shop, you are actually in the shop set. The shop, the café, and the pub are all interior/exterior sets, so when you see characters enter the pub from the street, they are actually going into the pub.

On the other hand, what I’m calling “interior-only” sets don’t have an exterior at all, or they may be represented by a door on the street, but it’s a door that doesn’t go anywhere, or at least doesn’t go to the set it’s pretending to house. The residential sets are like this, but so are Gaudi, the community center, Loinnir, and the pharmacy. These sets are laid out in rows in a mazelike cluster of rooms inside a big building I can only describe as being like a big two-story warehouse. Downstairs I saw sets like the community center (including the radio station), Gaudi, and the pharmacy. A lot of the residential sets are upstairs, including Vince and Caitríona’s (which I think is the first one we saw at the top of the stairs), Berni’s (which someone in our group jokingly introduced as something like, “And here’s the house fifteen people live in”), David and Gráinne’s, and the B&B. I think the pub’s living areas are up there, too, but I may be wrong, and I also think Loinnir is upstairs. (Anyone with better knowledge than mine, please correct me.) There was one set (maybe John Joe’s kitchen?) that made either Annamaria or Marie declare, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in here!”

Most of the sets felt smaller to me than they seem on TV. Gaudi is a good example of that—it looks sprawling onscreen, but in person felt quite compact. The pub was perhaps slightly smaller than I imagined, but there is more room to move around behind the bar than I was expecting. Berni’s flat is huge, and has an entire section with a sofa and a fireplace that I had forgotten existed. I can’t remember ever seeing Berni’s fireplace! The kitchen area in Berni’s flat seems large, too, and like it would be easier for the actors to move around than some of the others such as the B&B, which feels quite small and cozy.

During the tour and throughout the day a few of the actors mentioned that some sets can be difficult to film on because the shadows are tricky—I can’t remember which, but I think the B&B is one of those problematic “shadow sets.” Of course none of these rooms have ceilings on them, or at least not where you’d expect them to be—the tops are open and when you look up there are tons of lights and wires and equipment, and then way above that is the warehouse ceiling that actually keeps the building warm and dry. The very high ceilings keep the sets from feeling too claustrophobic despite their small sizes, as does the fact that most of them only have walls on three sides.

Marie and Annamaria were so sweet leading us around, and Annamaria in particular seemed to really enjoy the looks of wonder and delight on our faces as we walked from set to set and found ourselves transported to this world we’ve spent so much time watching on TV. By the time we got upstairs we were playing a game of “Name that room,” and it was fascinating how tricky it often was to recognize a room because were looking at it from “the wrong angle”—that is, an angle from which we don’t normally see it onscreen. For example, when we first entered David and Gráinne’s from where the hallway to their bedroom would be onscreen, I didn’t recognize the place at all, but once we moved toward the middle of the room and I adjusted my angle so that the kitchen was on the left and the living room was on the right, it was obvious where we were. This happened a few times upstairs, where I didn’t recognize where we were standing even though I’ve seen it a thousand times because we weren’t standing in “the right place.”

The attention to detail in all the sets is really amazing, and a testament to the hard work of the design and set teams. These places feel real, even though they haven’t got ceilings on them and most of them are missing a wall or two! They work really hard to make the sets feel right for the characters who inhabit them. For example, Annamaria pointed out to me the different little touches and knickknacks that represent David and Gráinne’s distinct personalities in their flat. Next time you’re watching a scene that takes place there, look around and notice which of the props look “Gráinne” and which look “David.” In the B&B set, they pointed out to us that the family photos on the wall are actually of the actors who play Máire and Peadar’s real-life families, and there are photos from the various actors’ real lives scattered throughout the sets to make the place seem more real.

For me, the two most interesting sets were the shop and, of course, Tigh Thaidhg. The shop is fascinating because when you are in it, it feels uncannily like you’re in an actual shop, except with the ceiling missing and a lot of extra lights and cables running around just out of sight. The shelves are all fully stocked with real merchandise, although as Annamaria and Marie pointed out, some of it is glued down. The food in the refrigerated case is real and it’s actually refrigerated. As with many of the other sets we visited, the shop wasn’t being used that day, so the lights were dim and no one was in there, which really made it feel like we were visiting an actual shop that was closed. Being behind the till in the shop was a strange experience for many reasons, including the fact that it’s not an angle we viewers usually get to see the shop from. Marie laughed that the new coffee machine in the shop is “the world’s largest coffee machine,” and she’s right—it’s enormous! The giant plastic ice-cream cone, a staple of my recaps, had been moved inside the shop for the day, and I made sure to take a picture of it.

Tigh Thaidhg is the most iconic location in Ros na Rún, and being in there was probably the strangest of all. I got chills walking into it. Again, the lights were dimmed because it wasn’t in use that day, so it felt like we were sneaking into the pub before opening time and that Tadhg might barrel down the stairs at any moment. Being there with “Bobbi-Lee” and “Mo” made it even more surreal, of course! They invited me to go behind the bar, which was crazy, and it was fun to see what’s actually back there. (Answer: not as much as you’d think.) I was surprised to find that the beer tap actually works—Marie even pulled me a pint! Well, first she handed me a glass and suggested I pull it myself, but when it became clear I had no idea what I was doing, she volunteered to do it for me. The first thing she had to tell me was, “Well, you want to hold the glass down here, not up here where you’ve got it, because that’s where they put their mouths.” Oops. Shows how much I know! (Annamaria laughed that she also can’t pull a decent pint, which I said was appropriate since Bobbi-Lee can’t, either!) Anyway, it was a good pint! I only had a couple of sips because we had places to go and things to see, but I can now saw I’ve had a pint in Tigh Thaidhg pulled by the legendary Mo Gilmartin herself.

I wish someone at Ros na Rún would draw a map of the lot and the sets inside the buildings, because I think viewers would be very interested to know where these places actually are in relation to each other. One of the fun things is that doors don’t lead where you’d think they would, so you may go through a door that’s labeled “Leithreas” and find yourself in, say, the pharmacy, or you go through the door behind the bar at Tigh Thaidhg you’ve seen characters go in and out of a million times and find it…doesn’t really go anywhere. One of the great secrets I found out is that the “front door” of Gaudi doesn’t go anywhere—when characters come from “outside” into the restaurant, they have actually been waiting in a dark empty sliver of a room until their cue. So if you see a large number of characters enter Gaudi either all at once or over the course of a scene, it means they’ve all been crammed into that tiny space in close quarters waiting their turn! The doors to the “toilets” at Gaudi go somewhere unlikely, but now I can’t remember where, but trust me, if you go back there in search of the toilet you’ll be disappointed.

I really wish I’d done a better job taking photos of the exteriors—for example, I should’ve gone over to the famous bus stop and gotten someone to snap a picture of me there! (I can’t remember if it was Marie or Annamaria who joked, “And here’s the bus stop where no buses have ever come.”) I saw the place I call Recycle Pod Park, and the bench where Pádraig hid the mussels instigating this season’s food-poisoning hijinks, too. A few of the sets are in a different location down the road, and I meant to ask more about that, but never got back to it. Marie told me that Mo’s house and Dee and Mack’s place are both at this other location. There’s also a hospital set there, and maybe an office set or some other kind of generic set we see when needed.

Visiting the set also shows you how exact the camera operators have to be when they’re filming the show. There’s not a lot of extra room, which means if they’re even an inch off, you could see the edge of the set, or a lighting rig, or a microphone, or a bunch of cables—or even into a different room! In the exterior scene we shot, not only were there crew members standing all over the place just out of frame, but there was also a ton of equipment and cables everywhere and lights on sticks and all kinds of other things that the camera operators and other crew have to very carefully avoid, both in terms of keeping them out of frame but also to avoid running into them or tripping over them as they’re moving around. So when you see a couple of characters having a private conversation on what seems to be an empty street or the remote Martian tundra, remember that just out of frame there are 10-20 other people moving around.

And that’s all I can think of to tell you about my day in Ros na Rún! If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them. It was truly an amazing day, and I’ll never forget it. I want to thank everyone who was so kind to us and made us feel so welcome, who put up with us asking a thousand questions and wanting to snap photos of everything, and who pretended not to notice how starstruck we were at times! And very special thanks to Annamaria Nic Dhonnacha (Bobbi-Lee) and Marie Bheag Breathnach (Mo), who made it all possible and who spent their entire day with us! GRMMA!

(If you missed them, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sons and Lovers

Season 22, Episode 44
First aired 1 February 2018

We open in the café with Berni desperately trying to get Evan on the phone, but he’s not answering FOR SOME REASON. She’s beside herself with worry, but Briain helpfully volunteers that he’s probably just passed out in the gutter with alcohol poisoning somewhere, as one does after one finds out one’s mother is having sex with one’s best friend. He assures her that Evan will get used to the two of them being together, and if he doesn’t, he can suck it. Berni, however, is not sure she would be comfortable with Evan sucking it, and for some reason Briain is surprised that she might not be willing to sever all ties with her son just so the two of them can keep playing hide-the-pickle. He exits and Bobbi-Lee arrives, which definitely constitutes trading up, and she tells Berni she’s just spotted Evan, and he appeared to be at least 40 percent alive. Berni’s relief turns to diarrhea, however, when she finds out that Evan was last seen coming out of the B&B, which means there’s a chance he told Máire about last night’s goings-on. Everybody run! Save yourselves! Leave the children!

In the pub kitchen, Tadhg has just screwed the knob that fell off the cabinet door last time back on, and when Frances arrives and asks what he’s doing, he explains that he wanted to “fix this door so that it closes properly,” which he demonstrates by opening and closing the door repeatedly. We will ignore the fact that the repair he has just performed has absolutely nothing to do with the proper operation of the hinges, although Frances makes it difficult by pointing out that she’s been asking him to fix that for years. She asks what’s come over him, and he eventually stammers that he’s doing it because he’s giving her half the pub, which clearly comes as a huge shock to her. If her brain were operating normally she would immediately realize that you fix up the place before putting it on the market, not before declaring that you’re now giving someone half of it in an abstract sense. She smiles, and he goes off to repair some skirting board, which, given how DIY cause-and-effect seems to work in this house, will presumably fix some problem with the dishwasher.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Season 22, Episode 43
First aired 30 January 2018

We open at DavidCare, where Máire has dropped by to measure Gráinne for her wedding dress, which we imagine will be crocheted and cover her entire face and half of David’s, too. Gráinne’s out somewhere not working, however, which means Máire has to content herself with meeting Sam, who introduces himself as having just used all the toilet paper, and whom Pádraig introduces as the son of a friend from two towns over. Oh, good, children love it when their fathers deny their existence, especially while they’re standing right there and there is a history of parental abandonment. Pádraig hurries Máire out the door, declaring this press conference over with no follow-up questions allowed, and Sam gives him another heaping helping of his now-famous side-eye, because this is some stone cold BS that he will make Pádraig pay for shortly.

We have a quick scene of domestic non-bliss between Mo and Colm and then return briefly to Pádraig, who seems to have misplaced Sam. We then check back in on Colm, who’s busy doing the worst job of emptying a bin in the history of the world. His first mistake was thinking the first step of emptying an overflowing bin is to try to shove two additional giant bags of trash into it, and his second was ensuring that none of the bags were tied shut. After the bin finishes doing its inevitable impression of Mt Vesuvius, he starts digging through the rubble and finds the positive pregnancy test. I’m sure my first thought is supposed to be, “Oh my God, he’s going to think Mo is pregnant!”, but that is in fact my second thought, my first one being, “They should take out their trash more often.” I mean, come on, she peed on that stick like three weeks ago.