TV Review: Derivative and dull, RTÉ's 'Striking Out' may as well be called 'The Grand Spouse'

The Amy Huberman-led legal drama doesn't have an original bone in its body, but plenty of boners to spare

TV Review: Derivative and dull, RTÉ's 'Striking Out' may as well be called 'The Grand Spouse'

[Conor Horgan/RTÉ]

Remember that seven-season legal drama where a woman scorned by her adulterous lover tries to make it by herself? Where she worked side-by-side with a leather jacket-wearing private eye who’s happy to turn a blind eye to the occasional bit of computer hacking? Where she routinely butted heads with an Alice-band wearing matriarch who thought they could patch it all up? And whose passions were rekindled by a handsome stranger with a beard and an American accent? If so, you may have seen some of the plotlines streaking across the face of RTÉ’s new Sunday-night drama Striking Out like running mascara before, the series opener seeming like a Republic of Telly take on The Good Wife. The only thing The Grand Spouse seemed to be missing on its checklist was a sassy judge telling Amy Huberman’s Tara that her mumbled statements needed an “in my opinion” suffix.

It might seem facetious to say that the best thing about Striking Out is how good it looks, but Frida Wendel’s gorgeous photography is by far the most promising thing in this new show. In opening shots framing Dublin’s docklands in a dusk that looks like West Coast Cooler-flogging nymphs should be soaring through it, Striking Out’s city is immediately one of modern Ireland, post-Tiger and post-crash. Dublin has never looked better on Irish screens; its modern architecture sparkly but cold, its Edwardian houses cosy and lonely, its underground sex clubs serviced by public transport and wipe cleanable. Which is all the more shameful, given that this Dublin cannot play home to a more interesting plot.

The show, in most un-RTÉ One fashion, opens with more penises than anyone could have expected. Tara Rafferty is celebrating her hen night in a posh Dublin restaurant, inconveniencing everyone by celebrating the occasion on a weeknight. Walking her mother to a taxi, large blow-up penis in hand, she hops into a car herself, deciding to pay a surprise visit to her fiancé in his... bedsit? It’s clearly supposed to be some kind of affluent bachelor pad in Ballsbridge, but Eric’s bed is immediately visible as Tara stumbles through the door, to find her lover and a professional rival’s legal and cotton briefs tossed aside while they engage in some steamy sex. Eric, who will later be seen wearing a pinstripe suit that looks like it was recommended to him by a sketch from The Fast Show, turns out to be the biggest dick we’ll see on screen all night, with Tara beating him back with her own inflatable one as she flees his excuses.

There follows some inexplicable serendipity, whereby Tara abandons her job, sets up her own legal practice, finds new friends, and somehow manages to get to the Four Courts in early morning traffic, all in the space of 20 minutes. Beat that, Alicia Florrick. Meanwhile, Eric and his father talk about getting her back in the firm, while Tara’s mother also pushes her towards reconciliation. Neil Morrissey is also in it. Instead, Tara’s happier setting up shop in a place where Nidge almost certainly killed someone, while taking on the case of a TV presenter whose professional reputation is facing a whipping due to a leaked sex tape. “Nobody, whatever their position in life,” Tara tells the judge, “Loses their right to privacy or dignity,” lawyering the court with an argument so bland and boring that she really should have shuck the inflatable willy for good measure.

It’s not that Striking Out deserves to be stricken off just yet, everyone on screen is making the most out of the very little they have to work with. Scripted drama has no shortage of women wronged by cheating men, but Eric Dunbar might be the most boring one of them to date. In this opening salvo, his role is reduced to frictional infidelity, and nothing more. He is as charmless as he is dull, a talking haircut in a three-piece monstrosity. Tara fares marginally better – she is sympathetic, after all – but there’s a sneaking suspicion that the 9-to-5-ing of a solicitor just might not actually be very interesting. The cases, carried out with the kind of efficiency that borders on the impossible, aim for edgy, but actually seem about as blunt as the large silicone dildos on display in the sex club. Episode two has a lot of heavy lifting to do.

Striking Out airs Sundays at 9pm on RTÉ, with episode one available on the RTÉ Player.

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