Belfast Telegraph

TV View: Colin Bateman's Scup is decent daytime newsroom drama

By Joe Nawaz

I used to work for a local newspaper covering local news for local people. It's the time-honoured rite of passage for any aspirant hack. While some may look to it as the first rung on a ladder that leads to "and now here's Celia with the weather", for others it's a calling in itself.

To serve and inform the community and all that. I certainly learned a hell of a lot in my time, pounding the streets of north and south Belfast, knocking on doors, annoying local authorities with questions about dodgy planning decisions, drawing attention to occurrences both good and bad, that went on within the community.

I have hugely fond memories of that time, and so it would seem would sometime comedy-crime writer Colin Bateman. A former reporter in Bangor, he's clearly drawn on the experience of his time there to give life to Scup, the Irish language newsroom drama, that's been quietly pootling along for two series now.

Tucked somewhere in the mid-week schedules between Stormont Today and stupor, Scup looks at the professional and unprofessional workings in a vibrant newsroom. It's a place where passions spill over as easily as badly edited copy, and headlines and heart-lines blend into a giddy melange of human drama and public interest. Only kidding. Scup is basically a competent daytime-drama-style series, which happens to be in Irish.

Basically think Doctors with extra subtitles and shorthand notebooks. But there's enough about Scup to hang on through the televised idiot antics of MLA-la-land beforehand. The problem with the BBC's special provision for our "indigenous languages" is that mostly, it seems like they've just superimposed the lingo over a format in a manner that seems forced at best, or excruciatingly contrived at worst.

The twee drama of Seacht presented an almost comically utopian Belfast where the ubiquitous Gaelic tongue wasn't just six across on the Times cryptic crossword. The setting of an Irish language newspaper makes for one of the more credible premises for the characters to, you know, speak in Irish.

Having Bateman, a writer without a whit of Irish, but a degree of wit, makes Scup watchable. The translation process must be a rather protracted affair, especially when deliberating for days only to realise the Irish for "Black Widow" and "star jump" is, um, Black Widow and star jump.

This week's instalment found the team at Nuacht an Phobail digging up dirt on a mysterious car accident involving a gaelgoir squaddie (a demographic whose exchange rate to the pound isn't exceptionally healthy).

There was also a little inter-office tension involving a jealous wife and a school group who learned the importance of a local press through a zombie analogy. We also learned a little something about journalistic ethics vis a vis a tough editorial decision and the enigmatic words of jovial buddha-like Uncle Cormac. Sometimes there's more to the truth than the truth, you know.

It might not be what I was taught back in the good old days in relation to the standards of the Press Complaints Commission, but we do live in much changed times. So, is Scup an authentic portrayal of a local newspaper? Not much, but then again, we don't demand similar standards from Holby City, a place I mildly enjoy watching, but wouldn't ever want to have to visit.

Storyline of Deirdre’s Street exit should be fitting tribute

The cry “Samir!” is etched into my memory like a rude carving on a school desk. It was one of the many memorable utterances by Deirdre Barlow-Rashid-Langton in her four-odd decades on Coronation Street. And what gloriously odd years they were.

Deirdre, as played by Anne Kirkbride, who passed away this week at a stupidly young age, was one of a rare handful of soap characters you could say was “enduring”.

She was a permanent fixture in my viewing through my formative years. I booed when Ken did the dirty on her with his latest femme fatale from the WI, winced when she had that fling with Dev, and relished her altercations with the deliciously acid-tongued Blanche. Anne Kirkbride played her with such conviction, you actually forgot there was an Anne Kirkbride. But there was, and she’ll be sorely missed by the cast, just as Deirdre will be on the Street.

Perhaps, morbidly, I always wonder how they explain the sudden demise of a leading character in the relentless conveyor-belt world of Soapland. In EastEnders they used to send them to Leicester. Deirdre deserves no less than a sudden late-life elopement to the South of France.

Switch On:

I wanted to hate Catastrophe (C4) but couldn’t. It had me hooked within five minutes. I’m a sucker for witty, breakneck wisecracking. And Sharon Horgan (who’s a bit of a comedy genius) and Rob Delaney (who’s an American) zinged so hard together, you could use them to advertise chemistry sets. Well, you couldn’t really, but let’s just say they interact compellingly.

Switch Off:

In this bleak midwinter what we’re currently in, it’s near on a travesty to have to switch off the warming glow of the gogglebox in favour of the colder allure of a book or board game. But Backchat With Jack Whitehall (BBC3) is just the show to compel you to improve your mind, or your scrabble score....

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