Smother review: A rare delight to watch an Irish TV drama hit all the right notes

Episode one of Smother got RTÉ's new series off to a great start,  with  Séana Kerslake the stand-out star of an impressive cast
Smother review: A rare delight to watch an Irish TV drama hit all the right notes

Smother: Niamh Walsh as Jenny, Dervla Kirwan as Val, Seána Kerslake and Gemma Leah Devereux as Anna.

You don’t hear the term ‘f**cking gobshite’ often enough on television. Or when you do, it’s way off, like the Irish accents in Wild Mountain Thyme.

Denis Ahern (played by Stuart Graham) delivers a proper juicy one early on in Smother (RTÉ One, Sunday 9.30pm.) It sets the tone for the whole show.

Denis bestows it on Carl, his wife Val’s new lover, for believing that things are going to well between himself and Val (Dervla Kirwan.) It turns out that Denis is the ‘f**king gobshite’. First of all he rounded off his speech at Val’s 50th birthday party with the news that his wife was about to become his ex-wife and move in with Carl. This clearly came as news to his family and friends assembled in their posh mansion near Lahinch. I think it came as news to Carl as well, to be honest.

Denis acted as if he was doing everyone a favour by breaking this news in front of every last posh person in Lahinch. He was a very sly man and to be honest, it was a relief that he ended up dead at the foot of a cliff in suspicious circumstances. (I’m not spoiling anything here – that’s the opening sequence.)

So whodunnit? This is where his daughter Val, played by Seána Kerslake, comes into focus. We’re told that she is struggling with her mental health and is possibly off her medication. We’re shown her catching her ex kissing her best friend at the 50th birthday party from hell. (The ex is a cop too, who will presumably get involved in the case in episode 2.) We also learn that her father, Sly Denis, is planning to sell her café without her permission. Oh, and she was seen wandering the cliffs near the spot that Daddy died. So obviously she didn’t do it.

Seána Kerslake is superb in Smother.

Seána Kerslake is superb in Smother.

But that’s not the point. Seána Kerslake is so screen-grabbingly good as Grace, you want to find out what really happened that night on the cliff. It’s not just her - a cast that includes Hilary Rose and Lochlann Ó Mearáin is so good, it felt like I was there in the tastefully decorated room, watching a rich rural Irish family falling apart. It probably helps that it was written by Kate O’Riordan, who grew up in West Cork.

It’s a rare delight to watch an Irish TV drama hit all the right notes. They even have amazing cliffs in it, as you’d expect from a show shot in West Clare. I think we should play to our strengths on Irish TV shows – so let’s see more cliffs and cursing. And shoot more stuff outside Dublin – culchies make for better drama than lawyer types living in a Georgian doer-upper in Rathmines.

I have a feeling Smother is only getting going. The writing and acting is so good, I feel in safe hands settling in for the remaining five episodes. You should watch it too. You’d be a f**king gobshite not to.

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