Val Falvey TD – Episode 1 Review

Posted on November 26, 2009


I recently drew my attention to RTE’s new comedy sitcom series starring Ardal O’Hanlon. Val Falvey TD I suppose, is not an unprecedented idea for a sitcom series in Ireland at the moment. It seems the producers decided it was time to rip something akin to urine out of the current political situation. The question is, how do they get on with it?


Well, the answer is not great. The first episode Rash Promise tells of one woman’s struggle to get compensation from a swimming cap factory for dumping waste into the lake next to it, where she swims because she likes the “Jacuzzi effect”. The fact that this factory pays Val Falvey a “consultancy fee” puts him in a predicament when the woman threatens to go to the press.


In addition to this, Val struggles with his self image and starts learning how to ride a bike after one of his opposition make the front page of the paper for ‘going green’. His family seem detached from him and this is shown in his clumsy flirting with Eurovision winner and general ‘likely to turn up anywhere’, Linda Martin.


And perhaps that’s where the problems begin. These are the three main plots of the episode but it’s only 25 minutes long, and it’s really trying to do too much. At the halfway point, I wasn’t quite sure whether the swimming cap factory story was supposed to be the main plot or subplot. It was a little bit confused as to what it wanted to be though admittedly, the payoff was surprisingly amusing if predictable.


One thing that struck me though, is RTE’s seeming love affair with the midlands, and making them look as bleak as is utterly possible. Pure Mule made a recent reappearance and for the most part was quite good. Now we have Val Falvey TD stuck in a caravan in the midlands, which we’re supposed to find funny, why? Because we haven’t seen it before? If they’d wanted to make this caravan idea truly funny, they should have set the series in Donnybrook or Foxrock. A local politician working out of a caravan in Foxrock, with the local villagers – now that would be funny.


There are a few sporadic moments of comedy throughout the episode – none of it laugh out loud, more a kind of dry wit. There is mention of a Taoiseach showing a TD a million pound in a suitcase – considering this is a political sitcom, I’m surprised it took 15 minutes to use that line. There is also some witty banter at the expense of Ireland’s Eurovision record, Linda Martin and Wolfe Tone but nothing that we haven’t seen or heard before.


And that’s probably, ultimately where this series will fail. You can see clear Fr. Ted style comedy, right down to the fact that Ardal O’Hanlon’s newly elected politician is only marginally more intelligent than Fr. Dougal McGuire was.


Val Falvey TD lacks the freshness that a series like Killinaskully had when it first aired. It lacks the double-entendres and funny yet completely unbelievable characters that Killinaskully had. And perhaps more importantly, and through no fault of its own, it lacks any other decent Irish comedy sitcom to compare itself to. It’s not something RTE do a lot of. And their recent decision to axe The Clinic, one of the few decent attempts they had at a drama series does not bode well for our Public Sector Broadcaster’s credibility.


Val Falvey TD ultimately is mediocre. If it was any longer than half an hour, we’d probably turn it off, but the way things are at the moment, we’d suffer that long just to hear a half decent Bertie Ahern joke (which incidentally turns up in some scripts I’m working on myself, at the moment).


The political situation in Ireland at the moment is crying out to be satirised. But it could have been done so much better than this.

Posted in: Reviews