ABC - 18th March 2009 - 10.00pm
There is so much that is wrong here it is so very hard to decide where to begin listing a catalogue of the sheer awfulness that occupies the 40 odd minutes of this episode. OK. This is an ensemble show. It is, isn't it? It's great that our characters get to go undercover and investigate the unsavoury goings on in New York. We've had everything from gay bashings, swingers parties and the black civil rights movements. Last week we had a very amusing episode that gave the character of Annie some excellent developments. This week, it's the St.Paddy's day episode, so let's do a really obvious 'rip the piss out of the Irish-Americans' and plonk Sam Tyler incognito in the middle of a bunch of Irish gangsters as an Irish docks worker with a massive set of sideburns and a terrible Irish accent. It'll be fine cos actor Jason O'Mara's Irish too and he'll be in on the joke (or not, judging by his attempt at an Irish accent). To quote Neil Tennant, 'did you see me coming, was I that obvious?'. Yes, you bloody were.
...it's devoid of any irony, subtlety or contextualisation at all
What's annoying is that the episode's plot simply pushes all the other characters to the edges of the narrative and simply has Sam spending an awfully long time getting down and dirty with all those gangsters and leader Jimmy McManus' tarot reading sister who just happens to be a friend of Sam's mother. Written down like that the plot truly does look contrived and it's done in the most condescending and cliched manner possible. Therefore, we barely get scenes with Annie, Gene, Ray and Chris and worst, it's devoid of any irony, subtlety or contextualisation at all. Hey, let's face it, it's funny anyway to depict the Irish as drunken, violent, thuggish, stupid, devious and criminal. Isn't it? I'm sure that their 'celebration' of Irishness will go down very well this side of the pond after the shooting of two policemen by the Continuity IRA.
Dreadful effects, dreadfully sentimental slop.The nadir of the series so far, the episode's inability to offer a comment on the way they depict the Irish-Americans here, just simply showing them as a criminal underclass, misses an opportunity to do something exceptional and to defy the cliches and conventions. The worst sin this commits is in being rather boring. The obsession with testosterone and alcohol fueled manliness, masculinity reduced to its most vapid form, is utterly tiresome. It also has the side effect of aligning Sam's character to one of a womanising, knuckle-dusting cop even if he is undercover and is required to submit himself to a role. There were glimmers of life in the attempt to bolt the 'Irish gangster' plot to the continuing relationship with Sam's mother, Rose. This would have been OK if it hadn't resolved itself with adult Sam spilling his guts out to a rapidly CGI morphing younger Sam. Dreadful effects, dreadfully sentimental slop. How the future Sam doesn't remember talking to himself as a child baffles me. The only other thing worth noting was the brief scene with Annie where Sam promises her a date. That's likely to be when she's a pensioner in 2009 judging by the way things are going.
...a poor episode that no amount of reconnecting Sam's adult life to his childhood can save
Then we get that ending. If you hadn't nodded off during this dull tale about mobsters double crossing each other, stealing VCRs, getting drunk and beating each other up then the final scene where the Irish gangster Jimmy McManus, on the run at the end of the episode, guns down Ray and Chris would probably have had you sitting bolt upright. It was shocking and had a whiff of desperation from producers who've just been told their show isn't coming back for a second year. If they have killed off the Michael Imperioli character then they've removed one of the series best actors and a tent pole character that has often made the series just about worth watching. So, all things considered this was a poor episode that no amount of reconnecting Sam's adult life to his childhood can save.
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