For the last decade or so, the quality of TV shows has soared in every respect; production values, writing, acting and more. With that, their popularity has sky-rocketed too and many TV shows get more hype and bigger fan followings than the most popular films. There's nothing we love more here at Claddagh Design Jewelry than kicking back and watching a great show after a long day in the workshop. Many television productions have budgets to equal blockbuster movies, with top quality costumes, special effects and all the bells and whistles an Oscar nominated movie would normally have. More importantly than all of the above however, is the fact that it is now a mortal sin to reveal any spoilers for at least 24 hours after an episode has been broadcast - such is the passion people have for their favourite shows these days. In Ireland these trends are as present as ever, and the country has both produced many of its own nail-biting programmes and been used as the location or subject matter for a number of other shows that have received international acclaim. Following on from our article on Movies filmed in Ireland, we have compiled the 10 of the most bingeworthy Irish TV shows. Here are just a few that you should be checking out.
1. Moone Boy
Moone Boy is a partially autobiographical account of Irish Hollywood actor and IT Crowd star Chris O’Dowd’s childhood. It’s a comedy series that recounts the exploits of a young boy named Martin Moone and his imaginary friend Sean (played by O’Dowd) growing up in the rural town of Boyle, Co. Roscommon in the 1990s. Currently in its third season, the show has featured cameos from UK and Irish stars such as Johnny Vegas, Steve Coogan and Amy Huberman. It’s all down to its witty and wacky sense of humour, thoroughly accurate (and nostalgic) representation of 1990s Ireland, and expert comic timing from it’s brilliant young actors.
2. The Fall
The Fall is the latest Irish-based show to take the TV world by storm. Starring Jamie Dornan (of Fifty Shades of Grey fame) as a serial killer seeking victims in Belfast and Gillian Anderson (of the X Files) as the detective superintendent brought in to try and catch him, this psychological thriller has proved wildly popular both in Ireland and across the pond in the US. Portraying both characters with stark realism and dark undertones, it makes for compelling viewing.
3. Game of Thrones
Probably the most popular TV show the world has ever seen, Game of Thrones is a dramatic world filled with medieval family feuds, otherworldly sinister creatures, political strife, and plenty of deceit and scheming. Based on the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ book series by George R.R. Martin, it details the battle for the land of Westeros, a powerful kingdom at the centre of a fictional fantasy world. The Westeros that you see on screen however, where much of the action of seasons 1 and 2 took place, is in fact Northern Ireland! The cast and crew are regularly spotted out and about in Belfast during filming, and it also features many Irish actors and actresses in the cast including Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark), and Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger).
Love/Hate is an entirely Irish made drama series that follows the activities of a fictional Dublin drug gang as they evade police, deal with internal tension and rival criminals, and try to protect their families and loved ones from the dangerous world they have become involved with. It has won praise from both the public and the nation’s critics for its gritty portrayal of Dublin’s criminal underworld, its excellent scriptwriting, complex characters, and stellar acting. It has also caused its fair share of controversy too however due to graphic scenes of violence and abuse - be warned, some episodes are not for the squeamish!
5. Father Ted
Father Ted is probably the most well-known and well-loved television show ever to come out of Ireland. Written by the immensely talented and hilarious Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews and starring Dermot Morgan, Ardal O’Hanlon and Pauline McLynn, it details the misadventures of the priests of the fictional Craggy Island, Father Ted Crilly and Father Dougal Maguire, and their housekeeper Mrs. Doyle. A typical sitcom on the outside, its context and timing gives it a much deeper meaning. Airing in the 1990s at a time when the Catholic church’s power in Ireland was rapidly declining, it was a sign of the new modern Ireland that was emerging, and hit the perfect cultural note for the people of Ireland at the time. Twenty years later it’s still regarded as a classic - there is even an annual ‘Ted Fest’ in county Clare where the show was filmed!
Vikings is a collaboration between Irish and Canadian film producers about - you guessed it - Vikings! It is filmed almost entirely on location in and around county Wicklow, with interior scenes filmed at the newly built Ashford studios. 70% of the action on screen takes place outdoors, and only a very small portion of that wasn’t filmed in Ireland. Based on real Viking characters from history, it follows the rise to fame of Ragnar Lothbrok and his crew after successful raids of England and France. It was first broadcast on the History channel, but is now available on a number of other online channels in several countries, including Australia, the US, Canada and the UK.
7. Penny Dreadful
Penny Dreadful is a series set in Victorian London, featuring characters from classic British and Irish literature of the time such as Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ as well as Mina Harker and Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. It is influenced by the ‘penny dreadfuls’, or cheap works of fiction with sensationalist subject matter that were popular in 19th century Britain. However it’s not London you see on screen; it’s Dublin. Hollywood stars such as Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett are regularly spotted around the city when filming takes place, as many locations in or close to the city centre are used. The first season was met with largely positive reviews, and the second is due to be broadcast this coming May, so there’s plenty of time to catch up.
8. The Tudors
Another historical series that proved highly popular in Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada was The Tudors. Focusing on one Tudor in particular, King Henry VIII (played by Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers), this series was filmed in Ireland, primarily in Ardmore studios in Bray, and ran for four seasons from 2007 to 2010. It starred several Irish actors and actresses including Sarah Bolger, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Padraic Delaney (to name just a few). Henry’s turbulent time as king was brought to life from his early daysdealing with political strife to the lengths we went to to marry Anne Boleyn, right through to his final days as King when he was haunted by the deaths he caused and the lives he ruined. Although long finished, this series is still winning new fans constantly and is well worth a watch.
9. Mrs. Brown’s Boys
Mrs. Brown’s Boys is the brainchild of Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll, based on the character of Agnes Browne who he regularly used as part of his stand-up comedy routines throughout his career. The show focuses on Mrs. Brown and, obviously, her boys, and her attempts to meddle in their lives in any and every way possible. The boys in question and many other characters are actually played by O’Carroll’s family members and friends, and much of the script is improvised. Although people in Ireland seem to have a ‘love it or hate it’ attitude to the show and it was practically ridiculed by critics, it proved to be highly successful in the UK and in fact won several awards.It has run into its third season and counting, with a number of one-off special episodes and even a film, which was released in 2014.
10. Fair City
While it may not have the same production values or big budgets as the other TV shows on this list, Fair City needs to be included simply because it is the longest running soap opera to grace Irish airwaves. A regular winner at the Irish Film and Television awards, it first aired in 1989 and has been broadcasting four episodes a week on the country’s national station RTE One ever since, with a viewership of upwards of 500,000. The show follows the residents of Carrigstown, a fictional Dublin suburb and the various trials and tribulations of their daily lives. It has won praise and controversy alike for tackling some topical subject matter over the years such as the financial crisis, gangland crime, domestic abuse and LGBT themes. While it may have a sub par reputation compared to other Irish TV shows, few can claim to have anything close to the long-term viewership of Fair City.
We love a good new Irish series so we were delighted when Striking Out came to our screens. This Irish legal drama is premiering on St. Patrick’s Day in the US. Striking Out’s recent premiere in Ireland was hailed as “a roaring success” (Irish Independent) and the series quickly became Ireland’s #1 new drama and was commissioned for a second season. Be sure to catch it this week when it premier's on Acorn TV. It’s about a successful Dublin lawyer played by Amy Huberman who, after discovering her fiancée (Rory Keenan) having an affair, abandons her wedding plans and job and starts an unconventional private practice. Amy Huberman is great in the lead and surrounded by a fantastic ensemble cast, including Neil Morrissey and Brahm Gallagher. It's a perfect show to binge watch so of course it had to join the list! Have another recommendation? We'd love to hear from you.