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It’s always interesting to see how the rest of the world is making television — how, say, the Danish are really good at it or how Italy’s Gomorrah differs from American crime series that seem to have influenced it or that Netflix is buying the rights to shows from Israel, etc.
Now Ireland’s No. 1 drama arrives in the United States (on St. Patrick’s Day, no less) via the Brit-centric streaming service, Acorn. Starting Friday, Striking Out will be available to stream, if you want a glimpse of what galvanized the Irish.
Air date: Mar 17, 2017
The series isn’t particularly different from what you might see on an American broadcast or cable channel, but it’s notable that it often makes different (and sometimes better) choices in character development when familiar scenarios pop up.
Striking Out focuses on “Dublin-based solicitor” – yeah, that’s a lawyer – Tara Rafferty (Amy Huberman, The Clinic), who breaks free of her bachelorette party just in time to surprise her fiancé and co-worker Eric (Rory Keenan, Peaky Blinders), who is, well, surprising another woman in his bed.
She does not take this well. But instead of doing what many American shows would likely do – have Tara fly into a rage, throwing things, moving out, fighting loudly in public with Eric (perhaps after they meet accidentally the next morning at Starbucks) and then grandly suing him because she’s a lawyer and can do that sort of thing – Tara is allowed to be devastated. And Huberman is excellent at conveying the world-spinning realization of what just happened, how much it hurts and also, fitting of the real world, how quickly she must act to get the hell away from said fiancé, whose father owns the firm where they work.
That’s the “striking out” part – Tara has to almost immediately give it a go on her own, without any planning, foresight or even desire to do it. Allowing the emotional development here is a strong suit of Striking Out, and the series benefits from a similarly keen understanding of how to portray the feelings of loss or change in other characters. For example, one of Tara’s clients, Ray (Emmet Byrne), is persuasively adrift in his life and is able to convey that when he not-especially-persuasively then becomes an assistant to Tara (at least he’s mostly a go-fer, not some street-urchin-turned-law-savant as it might have turned out on network television here in America).
But Striking Out does make fine use of Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly, Line of Duty), who plays Senior Counsel Vincent Pike, a mentor to Tara who she slowly realizes is also living a life in transition. Pike, Ray and Tara end up convening a little legal start-up at a local cafe owned by Pete (Brahm Gallagher). It’s probably a bit too cheeky for American audiences (in the sense that they’ve seen this kind of contrivance before), but not much harm is done. (And since so many Americans think of Ireland as green hills and castles, it probably doesn’t hurt to show a very modern, architecturally interesting Dublin, which just happens to have the same kind of cool cafes we do.)
Joining this small group of would-be legal warriors is Meg (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), a private detective and tech-savvy friend of Tara’s. Once assembled, Striking Out then takes on a case-of-the-week B-story while giving longer looks at the churning personal lives of Tara and Vincent.
The series is at its best when keeping the focus there, but every country needs a reliable procedural to crank out the stories, so helping people find legal salvation week-to-week is pretty much the point of Striking Out. There’s nothing revolutionary in play, but the actors here are worth the investment, particularly Huberman, who is both magnetic and relatable, meshing nicely with Morrissey’s usual high-bar work and the likability of Byrne. There are only four episodes in the first season, but the series has already been renewed for a second, so if you want a taste of what other people in the world are doing with TV – and a visual travelogue of something other than New York or Los Angeles – give this a shot.
Cast: Amy Huberman, Rory Keenan, Neil Morrissey, Emmet Byrne, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Brahm Gallagher
Directed by: Lisa James Larsson
Written by: James Phelan
Available now on Acorn TV
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