The Write Stuff

You know a programme has made it into the public’s consciousness when the marketeers start to cash in. Sitting on a packed tube train to Heathrow, my smartphone buzzed as I received an email from Hastings Hotels just hours before the final episode of ‘Derry Girls’ aired. An ad for the Everglades Hotel read: “Be A Derry Girl” – immediately conjuring up images of hordes of tourists in green school uniforms and wild hair, freaking out about exams, boys and … Read more

Girls Are Loud

Just hours before the penultimate episode of ‘Derry Girls’, thoughts were already turning to the next series. The city’s most famous Derry Girl up until this year, Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud was quoted in the Irish Daily Star as suggesting she might appear on the show. But it was the sounds of the contested ground that dominated the fifth episode of Lisa McGee’s sitcom as it began with an Orange Order march through the city and the rattle of … Read more

The Nuclear Option

  No sooner had the debate begun about how ‘Derry Girls’ really measures up as a sitcom, than BBC Northern Ireland decided last week to air the first of three new episodes of ‘Give My Head Peace’. Thanks BBC because you just reminded everyone what a massive leap forward Lisa McGee’s not quite perfect Channel 4 sitcom is for Northern Irish comedy. Now entering the second half of its six episode run, the fourth episode of ‘Derry Girls’ again delivered … Read more

Promised You A Miracle

In its first two episodes, Lisa McGee’s feisty sitcom ‘Derry Girls’  hasn’t been afraid to tackle sacred cows. But after making some jokes about Catholic schools, the Channel 4 sitcom finally went the full hog on Catholicism in episode three, bravely – or rather foolishly, depending on your point of view – inviting comparisons with the biggest sacred cow in Irish comedy ‘Fr Ted’. This week’s episode found the gang on a study sleepover for a history exam in Erin’s … Read more

Mission Not Quite Accomplished

Just hours before the airing of the second episode of ‘Derry Girls’, writer Lisa McGee had great cause for celebration. Channel 4 announced it had commissioned a second series of the 1990s convent school sitcom. After the enthusiastic response to the opening episode, hopes were high that the show would deliver on its initial promise. Episode two got off to a very strong start, with another cringeworthy school Assembly for the pupils of Our Lady Immaculate College. Once again, eager … Read more

Here Come The Girls

  Does anyone remember The Fitz? No? It was a BBC2 sitcom written by the acclaimed Co Tyrone stand-up Owen O’Neill about an unhinged family living along the border. No? It aired in 2000 and had a cast that included Eamon Morrissey, Bronagh Gallagher, Deirdre O’Kane, Ruth McCabe, Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny. Still nothing? Well, that’s not surprising. ‘The Fitz’ died after one series after appalling reviews from critics who desperately hoped it would be the new ‘Fr Ted’. … Read more

Long Day’s Journey Into the Light

Dramatising history is always difficult – especially recent history. But dramatising history – particularly recent history in Northern Ireland – can be a bit of a minefield if you have to compress it into a 90 minute film. Director Nick Hamm and writer Colin Bateman are under no illusions that their movie ‘The Journey’ about Dr Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness will attract brickbats in Northern Ireland. If they get the odd bouquet, though, that would be an achievement. Fictionalising the … Read more

“Waltzing together in time”

Episode four of ITV’s ‘The Secret’ saw Colin Howell and Hazel Stewart (formerly Buchanan) tossed about in a sea of emotions. In the previous three weeks, we had seen the plot to murder their respective spouses hatched, the murders gruesomely recreated and the gradual drifting apart of the lovers as they seemed to get away with their heinous crime. But at the start of episode four, James Nesbitt’s Howell, who had been so confident throughout that God was on his … Read more

“Nobody ever gets away with murder”

Three weeks into ITV’s Colin Howell drama ‘The Secret’ and it is now the source of political controversy. Earlier this week, director Nick Murphy and writer Stuart Urban’s adaptation of journalist Deric Henderson’s book on the murders of Lesley Howell and Trevor Buchanan was raised by Labour MP Louise Haigh during Prime Minister’s Questions. And David Cameron has now vowed to raise with the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale concerns from the family of Lesley Howell about the impact of the … Read more

“Nobody is going to catch us”

The second episode of ‘The Secret’, ITV’s drama about the killer Colin Howell was always going to be a difficult watch. But tonight’s episode was at times almost unbearable. Having discussed the possibility of murdering their respective spouses in Episode One, tonight’s episode saw James Nesbitt’s Colin Howell and Genevieve O’Reilly’s Hazel Buchanan go about their horrific deed. Given that earlier this week, Howell’s daughter Lauren Bradford expressed her family’s distress at the murders being dramatised I will not rehearse … Read more


The verdict was never really in doubt. However there was plenty of food for thought in tonight’s final instalment of TV3’s1916 drama experiment ‘Trial of the Century’. For the past two nights, viewers had watched a dramatic interpretation of the trial Padraig Pearse might have faced, had the British authorities not opted to court martial and execute him and other leaders of the Easter Rising. The first episode, scripted by Hugh Travers and directed by Maurice Sweeney, focused on the … Read more


Episode two of TV3’s 1916 experimental drama ‘Trial of the Century’ saw Padraig Pearse launch his defence. Tom Vaughan Lawlor’s Pearse was beckoned to leave the dock and address the jury from the bench by David Heap’s Judge Bonham. Pearse began by telling the jurors he wished to talk to them about an “island nation” with “a noble history”. That island nation was Britain. He wanted them to imagine a situation where the Germans triumphed in the Great War. The … Read more


The notion of a writer rewriting history isn’t particularly new. Robert Harris’ ‘Fatherland’ famously imagined what Berlin in 1964 would have been like if the Nazis had won the Second World War. However it takes a brave or foolish writer to rewrite Irish history. But that is exactly what Hugh Travers has done for the Irish television station TV3 in its 1916 drama ‘Trial of the Century’ which aired tonight. The premise is simple. Instead of court-martialling and executing the … Read more


OK. So before I review the Colin Howell drama ‘The Secret’, which aired on ITV tonight, I have a confession to make. I have more than one connection to this programme. Deric Henderson, the journalist who wrote the book ‘Let This Be Our Secret’ on which ‘The Secret’ is based, was my boss for nine years at the Press Association. James Nesbitt also became the Chancellor of the University of Ulster when I was the Director of Media and Corporate … Read more


The final episode of ‘Rebellion’ on RTE1 was not surprisingly a mournful affair as characters awaited execution, languished in Kilmainham Jail or tried to avoid capture. At the start of the episode, Steve Wall – best known to my generation as the lead singer of The Stunning – burst through the doors of the home of Niamh Cusack’s Nelly Cosgrave and almost caught Sarah Greene’s May Lacy and Ruth Bradley’s IRB operative Frances O’Flaherty hiding in an attic. Over the … Read more


The penultimate episode of RTE’s 1916 miniseries ‘Rebellion’ began with surrender. Driven out of the ruins of the GPO, the leaders of the Easter Rising waved a white flag and marched through the streets of Dublin with Charlie Murphy’s Irish Citizens Army volunteer Elizabeth Butler and her comrade Brian Gleeson’s Jimmy Mahon among their ranks. As they laid down their arms, Jimmy got a rifle rammed into his belly and Elizabeth was frogmarched into O’Hanlon’s fish shop by her British … Read more


“Ballsbridge is like the Western front,” Ian McElhinney’s Edward Butler declared as RTE’s 1916 miniseries ‘Rebellion’ concentrated on the third day of the Rising. There were plenty of bullets whizzing about in the third episode of director Aku Louhimies and writer Colin Teevan’s miniseries, starting with a British firing squad shooting a rebel. Barry Ward’s Arthur Mahon couldn’t bring himself to raise his rifle and, avoiding a court martial, he ended up having to scoop bodies off the streets of … Read more


Film reviewer Dan McGinn casts his eye over the second episode of RTE’s Rebellion which after a strong start last week “is beginning to look little more than a period soap opera”.

Sisters In Arms

RTE REBELLION – Brothers on opposite sides of history … but where it really scores is its interest in the women involved in the Rising.

Franks Underlings #HouseOfCards

For three seasons, ‘House of Cards’ has been the flagship drama for a new method of consuming television.Developed and produced for Netflix by former Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean staffer Beau Willimon, it has broken new ground for the web based TV service – landing Emmy nominations and also Golden Globes for its stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. But while it has worn its cynicism about US politics with pride and has attracted directors of the calibre of David … Read more