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Fair City
Faircity.jpg
Current logo
Genre Soap opera
Created by Margaret Gleason
Starring Present Cast
Country of origin Ireland
Language(s) English
Production
Executive producer(s) Brigie de Courcy
Producer(s) Michael A Sweeney
Location(s) RTÉ Headquarters, Dublin
Camera setup Multiple-camera setup
Running time 25 mins.
Broadcast
Original channel RTÉ One
Original run September 18, 1989 – present
External links
Official website

Fair City is an award-winning Irish television soap opera on RTÉ One. Produced by Radio Telefís Éireann, it was first broadcast on Monday, September 18, 1989. Plots centre on the domestic and professional lives of the residents of Carrigstown, a fictional suburb on the north side of Dublin.

Originally aired as one half-hour episode per week for a limited run, it is now broadcast year round in four episodes per week. It is the most popular Irish soap opera, and the longest running.[1]

Fair City has established itself as a permanent part of the Irish cultural landscape. Viewing figures of between 500,000 and 600,000 make it, by a considerable margin, the most watched drama in the country.[2]. Its major characters have become household names, and a recent upsurge in quality has seen the programme win for the first time, and subsequently retain, the prestigious TV Now Award for Best Soap.[3]

Contents

Setting

Fair City is set in Carrigstown, a fictional suburb of Northside Dublin. According to the RTÉ Guide, Carrigstown is bounded by Drumcondra to the north, the city centre to the south, East Wall to the east and Phibsboro to the west.[4] Many of the scenes take place around the main street in Carrigstown, with notable landmarks on the street including McCoys pub, Phelan's corner shop formerly Doyle's, The Hungry Pig diner formerly The Bistro and Vino's Tapas Bar formerly Rainbows Sandwich Bar. Other notable settings include the Acorn Cabs dispatch centre, the office of the Northside Post newspaper and the Helping Hand charity shop.

Fair City occasionally makes use of real Dublin locations. Sequences have been shot in the Natural History Museum, on Grafton Street, during the Dublin City Marathon, and more recently in Abrakebabra and on the LUAS.

Characters

The series was originally focused on four families: the O'Hanlons, the Kellys, the Clarkes and the Corcorans. This was similar to the British soap EastEnders, which also originally focused on a number of families and the community in which they lived. Over time the emphasis has moved away from the four families and grown to include the wider community of Carrigstown.

During the 1990s the Phelan, Doyle, and Molloy families were introduced and dominated storylines for that decade. Bela and Rita Doyle, along with their brood of five children and Rita's mother Hannah, were involved in many stories. The Phelan family originally consisted of Hughie and Natalie, but later a new branch of the family arrived including Hughie's mother Eunice, and his brother Christy, along with Christy's wife Renee, and their two children Floyd and Farrah. The Molloy family was introduced in the mid-1990s and consisted of patriarch Harry, his wife Dolores, and their two teenage children Wayne and Lorraine.

The Halpin family was gradually introduced in the early 2000s, but since then the show's focus has shifted to individual characters more than family groupings. Notable characters introduced subsequently include Carol Meehan, Tracey Kavanagh, Ray O'Connell, and Jo Fahey. Another change in recent years has been the introduction of ethnic minority characters such as Lana Dowling (née Borodin) and the Udenze family. However, the Udenzes moved back to England after the father Gabriel was burnt to death in a fire, and Lana Dowling was kidnapped and murdered. Though the most surprising change must have been the introduction of the Israeli character to the show in 2009 – Avi Bar-Lev (Asaf B. Goldfrid).

Former executive producer Niall Mathews believes the soap's success is due to the large cast and the fact that no single character or group of characters dominates. "Difficulties are inherent if you are dealing with just one family," he says. "Look at Dallas and Dynasty; both did well at the beginning, but because all the action was centred on a single family, the writers ran out of things to say."[5]

Production

Each week rehearsals for the four episodes take place on Saturday and Monday. From Tuesday to Friday, the interior scenes are recorded on two RTÉ sound stages. The schedule runs from 08:00 to 18:30. The exterior scenes are filmed on Thursday and Friday either on the lot within the grounds of the RTÉ headquarters, or in various locations in Dublin. The series is planned in blocks of 12 episodes. The first stage is the development of story and plot, which is done by a small team of storyline writers. Once the stories have been fleshed out and agreed, the scene breakdown writers decide how the stories should be translated into scenes for each episode. The episodes are then assigned to script writers, who create the dialogue and stage directions for the actors.[6]

Running in parallel with the writing process is the production process, which includes: casting, wardrobe, make-up, design and construction of sets, purchase of props, finding locations, booking facilities, developing schedules, and other administrative tasks involved in managing a large production. From 1989 until 1994, all interior shots were filmed at Ardmore Studios in Wicklow. In 1994, the show moved to a RTÉ studio specifically adapted to cater for this flagship drama. All exterior shots were initially recorded in Drumcondra on Dublin's northside, where residents were politely asked to stay indoors during shooting. Two years later, Carrigstown moved south of the Liffey to RTÉ where set designers replicated the façades and interiors of the original houses.[7]

The show has had four different opening sequences and three different theme songs. The opening features several scenes of contemporary Dublin, while the closing credits show a frozen image of the River Liffey.[8]

Social realism

The show has featured a number of gritty storylines reflecting major issues in Irish society, particularly from the mid 1990s onwards.

In 1998, the show tackled the subject of rape, with the rape of Lorriane Molloy by Dr Jack Shanahan, who later committed suicide. The show also featured a homosexual relationship in 1996, with characters Eoghan and Liam engaging in Ireland's first gay "kiss" on television, although the two never actually touched lips. Abortion was portrayed in the early 2000s as Kay McCoy decided to abort her pregnancy despite her husband's wishes, for fear the child would be born severely disabled.[9] Drug addiction has also been portrayed a number of times. One of Fair City's best-known storylines took place in 2001, with crime lord Billy Meehan abusing his wife Carol and mistress Tracey McGuigan before being murdered by Carol's son Lorcan. [10]Prostitution was also shown in 2001 when Tracey turned to prostitution in order to pay for drugs.

Mental health issues were confronted in 2002 when Yvoone Doyle developed schizophrenia (which led to her taking a drug overdose in a failed suicide attempt). In 2003, storylines included teenage pregnancy (Kira Cassidy giving birth to a baby girl, Juliet)[11], incest (Heather Lyons' relationship with her half-brother Floyd Phelan). Domestic abuse was highlighted with the Halpin family when, in 2003, Tess was murdered by her husband Marty following years of domestic abuse.

In 2004, Fair City continued to feature hard-hitting issues such as anorexia (Robin McKenna's eating disorder) and teacher Sorcha Byrne's illicit affair with 19-year-old student Ross O'Rourke (which cultivated in Sorcha's boyfriend Barry O'Hanlon being overcome by clinical depression and having a mental breakdown. Homelessness was shown in 2005 when Cleo Collins slept rough on the streets. Gangland killing was also featured in 2005 when Mick O'Shea killed a member of a criminal Ukranian gang under the orders of crime lord Sylvester Garrigan (which led to his niece Ali being held hostage by them in 2006).

Missing persons were highlighted in 2007 with the disappearance of Lana Dowling. 2008 covered the issue of euthanasia (Floyd's death in a pact with Heather's husband Brendan) and the Criminal Assets Bureau (Carol losing her pub and nightclub which were purchased by Billy with his ill-gotten gains))[12]. In 2009 mental health issues were confronted such as Keith McGrath's desertion of the British Army and Bill Taylor's psychological torture over Annette Daly's alcoholism.

Aside from this, soap opera staples of youthful romance, jealousy, domestic rivalry, gossip and extramarital affairs are regularly featured.

History

Concept and inspiration

Fair City was conceived in 1989 by RTÉ when it decided that it needed an urban soap opera to compete with Coronation Street and EastEnders.[13] Though the creator of the soap was Margaret Gleason, Tony Holland - co-creator of EastEnders - was brought in as a consultant with the early episodes of the show.[14]Fair City derives its title from the opening line of the traditional song "Molly Malone": "In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty..." and is the only English-language soap opera produced in Ireland. The show was launched in September 1989 and at the time was described as "the most ambitious production of its kind ever undertaken by RTÉ".[15]

Broadcast format

The show was initially aired with one episode per week for a limited run (16 weeks).[16] In 1990, RTÉ opted to recommission the soap and air one episode a week between September and June, taking a summer break. In 1994, its output was increased to twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm.[17] After 1997 the show started being broadcast all year around. In 1998 an extra episode was added and a fourth was added in 2001.[18] Up until 2003, the soap only aired two episodes over the summer months however the four episodes were aired all year round from summer of that year.[19][20] In 2004, Friday's 8.30pm episode was moved to Sunday nights at 8p.m.

On 17 January 2002, Fair City reached its 1,000th episode.[21] In 2004, the soap opera celebrated its fifteenth year by broadcasting an hour-long compilation episode entitled Fair City: The Ten Commandments.[22] This episode showed old clips of characters breaking the Ten Commandments. It also featured interviews from the cast and fans. On 30 November 2006, Fair City reached its 2,000th episode.[23]

International screenings

RTÉ have stated that the show is not meant for international consumption as many of the characters, storylines and issues are specifically Irish in nature, aimed at people living in Ireland. Many viewers in Northern Ireland can watch Fair City on RTÉ One, because much of the population are able to receive Irish television, including RTÉ One. During the 1990s UTV broadcast the show during the day.

Fair City was shown on the Tara Television network in the United Kingdom via cable and Sky Digital from 1997 until the closure of the station in 2002.[24] Classic episodes were shown in the daytime and repeated in the early evenings on weekdays, and current episodes were simulcast with RTÉ One.

RTÉ are planning an international channel similar to that of the now defunct UK service Tara Television, it is hoped that Fair City will be aired on RTÉ International when the channel begins transmissions. There are also plans to launch the channel in Europe and North America, giving those continents access to Fair City as well.[25]

Popularity and viewership

Fair City has consistently high official viewing statistics. The viewing figures for each episode are around 500,000 - 600,000 and rising to 700,000 or more for specials. The soap has proven particularly popular with viewers outside of Dublin and continues to attract significant audiences on Irish television, often beating stalwart British imports such as Coronation Street and EastEnders in the ratings.[26][27] The launch show attracted 1.06 million viewers.[28] On 21 November 2001, Fair City attracted 840,000 viewers who tuned in to see Billy Meehan being killed by Lorcan Foley.[29] The serial was not initially a critical success, but it has received acclaim recently for its more credible, sophisticated and psychological stories under executive producer Brigie de Courcy.[30]

The Wire star Reg E. Cathey has expressed his interest in a part on the show, saying he would like to play "an American guy coming to meet his daughter who is now a big singer, someone like Laura Izibor".[31]

Awards

The programme was nominated for an IFTA as 'Best Television Drama' in the years 2000 and 2003. Stuart Dunne, who portrayed Billy Meehan, was nominated for an IFTA as 'Best Actor in a Television Drama' in 2003.[32]

Pat Nolan, who plays Barry O'Hanlon, won a Rose d'Or award in the 'Best Soap Actor' category at the international Rose d'Or Festival in Switzerland on 7 May 2005.[33] The series has also been nominated for a TVNow Award as 'Favourite Soap' in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Its first ever victory, in 2008, was matched by a second victory in 2009.[34] Fair City won 'Best Soap in the International Entertainment' category, at the Mediamixx festival in Bulgaria in July 2007.[35]

Controversy

RTÉ pays some Fair City cast members only €432 a day, although the soap generates revenue in the region of €7m each year for RTÉ. Despite its earnings, Fair City costs almost twice that amount to produce.[36]

As a result of a storyline, school managers feared that students were starting 'copycat' fight clubs in post primary schools around the country.[37] RTÉ has also launched an investigation into how a convicted paedophile appeared as an extra in the soap.[38] Fair City was criticised by Down's Syndrome Ireland for using the derogatory term "mongo" in the January 20, 2006 episode.[39]

Merchandise

In 2005, script writer Brian Gallagher wrote a book about the show, entitled Inside Fair City.[40] A DVD under the title Fair City: 20 Years of Carrigstown was released in 2009.[41]

References

  1. ^ [1]Digital Spy
  2. ^ [2]Sunday Tribune
  3. ^ "[3]TV Now Magazine
  4. ^ RTÉ Guide, 5–11 September 2009 edition
  5. ^ "[4]" Irish Independent. URL last. Retrieved 16 March 2007
  6. ^ "[5]" Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007
  7. ^ "Temporary set lands Fair City in hot water" Sunday Times. URL last. Retrieved 12 December 2009
  8. ^ "Mooney Goes Wild". RTÉ. 16 September 2008. http://www.rte.ie/radio/mooneygoeswild/fp2008/september16.html. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  9. ^ "City" Estudiosirlandeses. URL last accessed 9 January 2010
  10. ^ "Soap actor in a lather over whitewash" Sunday Tribune. URL last accessed 17 December 2009
  11. ^ "It's not Fair (City)" BNET. URL last accessed 30 January 2010
  12. ^ "[6]" BNET. URL last accessed 30 January 2010
  13. ^ "[7]" Evening Herald. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009
  14. ^ [8]The Guardian
  15. ^ The Irish Emigrant - June 25, 1989
  16. ^ "[9]" RTE. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009
  17. ^ "[10]" RTE. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009
  18. ^ "A tale of two soaps" Irish Independent. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007
  19. ^ "[11]" Sunday Business Post. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007
  20. ^ "[12]" Sunday Business Post. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007
  21. ^ "[13]" Irish Examiner. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007
  22. ^ "[14]" Irish Examiner. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007
  23. ^ "[15]" Irish Examiner. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007
  24. ^ Independent.ie article on Fair City moving to British TV
  25. ^ Eircom.net article on Fair City
  26. ^ "[16]" Sunday Mail. URL last accessed 21 September 2009
  27. ^ "New Irish TV channel" Sunday Business Post. URL last accessed 21 September 2009
  28. ^ "[17]" RTE. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009
  29. ^ Independent.ie article on the Billy Meehan fictional murder
  30. ^ "[18]" Irish Independent. URL last accessed 20 October 2009
  31. ^ http://www.rte.ie/arts/2009/0603/regecathey.html
  32. ^ "List of IFTA Awards" RTÉ. URL last. Retrieved 30 March 2007
  33. ^ "Fair City's Pat Nolan wins Best Soap Actor Award". RTÉ. 7 May 2005. http://www.rte.ie/about/pressreleases/08052005.html. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  34. ^ List of Nominated Soaps" TVNow. URL last. Retrieved 5 April 2008
  35. ^ Issue 370, TVnow, published July 10, 2007
  36. ^ John Lawrence and Jason O'Brien (7 March 2007). "Star actors in top-earning soap on €432 a day". News & Gossip, Entertainment. Irish Independent. http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=42&si=1788626&issue_id=15335. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  37. ^ John Walshe (7 March 2007). "Schoolboy fight clubs 'copying' Fair City story line". Latest News, Education. Irish Independent. http://www.independent.ie/education/latest-news/schoolboy-fight-clubs-copying-fair-city-story-line-48371.html. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  38. ^ Fiach Kelly (17 March 2008). "Family feels 'betrayed' after son's sex abuser appears on Fair City". National News. Irish Independent. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/family-feels-betrayed-after-sons-sex-abuser-appears-on-fair-city-1319586.html. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  39. ^ Independent.ie article on Down Syndrome controversy
  40. ^ [19]
  41. ^ [20]

External links








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