Thursday, February 10, 2011

Raw Season 3 or How I learned to stop worrying and start loving Joe Doyle

For those who don't know, Raw is an Irish television "drama". It's a drama in the sense that Hollyoaks and Gossip Girl are hard hitting social commentary, but it's difficult to label the show anything else so lets go with that for now.

Raw Season 1 promotional picture.

Raw follows the lives of a slowly rotating cast of characters who work in the restaurant of the show's title. So in between all the longing glances and evil snares we're treated to lots of food prep montages. It's a simple enough premise and it looked like it had a bit of a budget so when Raw first aired I thought I'd give it a go. Despite Ireland's terrible reputation for home grown shows, I found it pretty watchable but what kept me around was another surprise... Joe.

Joe Doyle: sexy man extraordinaire.
Joe Doyle is a good acquaintance of mine. I hesitate to use the word friend because despite a period in my life when I saw the guy regularly it's been a few years now and we don't keep in touch all that much outside of the odd Facebook status-liking. I still feel that we could call each other for a favour without hesitancy but we don't call each other for chats so I don't want to over stretch the importance of our relationship.

He's a musician, actor and all-round dream boat to boot which makes him that type of guy that girls love and fellas with will keep their girlfriends away from. Apart from liking the guy I also was/am a big fan of his music so when he popped up in the background of the Raw kitchen with a vegetable in his hand and a puppy dog look in his eyes I got a little excited. "Holy shit it's Joe!" was precisely my shout from the couch I was slouching in. My girlfriend rolled her eyes as she knew she would have to endure my man-love for a TV extra on a weekly basis now.

As the weeks went on Raw (or Joe-Watch as it had now become known solely in my brain) was beginning to get entertaining for it's own reasons. The lead character "Jo-Jo" was a wreck-the-head of the highest order and wasn't helped by the whole cast saying her name twice a sentence but everyone else remained interesting enough to keep you around. And when Joe (or Richard as he was called in the show) started to get the odd line here and there, the writers were instantly forgiven for the things they lacked.

In Season Two there was a reshuffle of cast and a bit of a switch to the younger side of audience appeal, namely; lets get everyone shagging each other. In a way, this worked. The show embraced it's slightly sillier soap-opera side and cut some of the chaff actors from the last season. The ones we liked such as Pavel, Shane and Geoff were still there but more importantly (and very cleverly in my opinion) the two background kitchen staff of Joe and the character Tiny were kept around and pushed to a slightly higher prominence. It meant that there was a sense of real familiarity when returning to the show. Even though they got rid of a couple of main characters the fact that they kept the small ones, the ones they could have cut so easily, it almost felt like the kitchen staff of Raw were a real staff. Almost, you know, because in reality there would be more fatties and ug-os.

Season 2 promo: There's Joe sitting on the counter with lead slag Jo-Jo in front of him

At this point I was enjoying the show itself rather than just putting up with it like I had previously. There was a bit more fun injected into it's young cast and Raw started to feel like the writer's knew what audience it was trying to target.

Bonus storyline: Richard (or Dick as he was being called by angry Aussie Geoff, a nice inter-personal touch which again help make the show feel a bit more layered than "what's Jo-Jo doing right now?") was talking to the staff about a musical gig he had coming up. It even became a running joke because no-one wanted to go to it. Needless to say, my man-boner was unashamed. Joe... might play some music on TV! *girlish squeal*.

I was not disappointed. At the end of the season we were treated to his silky vocal stylings and I almost got dumped as I shoved my girlfriend out of the way of the TV. Unfortunately, I don't have any footage of his Raw performance but here is a video from him playing on Balcony TV a few years prior. I'm actually there on set and you can probably hear me cheering in the background at the end.

However, while the Joe-love had reached new heights on the show... it was all to change.

Raw Season 3: Who the fuck are you? Where has Joe gone?!

What? More people I don't care about! This is ridiculous. I understand that a TV show which remains the same becomes stagnant but can't you figure out how to create drama with the characters you have? Do you constantly have to bring in new folks to cause tension? Unfortunately, the writers have created such two dimensional characters that they don't know how to write new stories without new people so the merry-go-round continues. The problem is after three seasons I've actually built up a bit of fondness for the characters we have so if you reduce their screen time by trying to make me care about some new cardboard cut-out you're going to lose my interest.

But the worst was yet to come. A couple of episodes in they felt the need to "recession" the story up and fire a couple of employees. You guessed it, Joe and Tiny got the axe.

I took the news as well as could be expected.

So, while the show continued I tried to soldier on but it wasn't easy. We were asked by the show's writers to care about Jo-Jo's parents who were acting like two teenagers, not really an issue I gave a fuck about. We saw Geoff get beaten up and act like a caveman for the rest of the series which took one of the show's most enjoyable pricks and made him a completely one-note song. We were supposed to root for Dylan during a lame love triangle yet it was hard to want him to get anything other than acting lessons. It all went a little bit down hill. Also, there is a guy called Ray now and.. well, the less said about his shitness the better.

The final episode of Season 3 airs this Sunday on RTE 1 and I'm finding it hard to give a fuck. What had a good head of steam in Season 2 has fallen apart now as plotlines are either badly formed or just not interesting. Let's hope a whole bunch of the cast get hit by a bus and the writers can have their fun of getting new actors to fit the storylines they've just come up with. Otherwise lord knows what they'll do next season.

And if you see Joe Doyle on the street, give him a hug for me. Or, if you have a part in a TV show going then give him a job.