Why 'Normal People' is one of Ireland's most defining TV experiences
It's pretty common these days for a TV series to strike a chord with viewers. We've had the likes of 'The Sopranos', 'Breaking Bad', 'Game of Thrones' which have all been defining TV experiences for fans across the world. But when it's an Irish TV series that comes along and is being celebrated, it solidifies how important our little island can be, and why it's important to get with the times.
And that's all down to the sheer talent that has made it all possible. First off, 'Normal People' wouldn't be here without the text it is based on. Sally Rooney's novel was published just two years ago, and quickly became a sought-after hit here, in the US, and in the UK. Due to what came before it, the novel was already a talking point even before the book was released, as revealed by executive producer of the series Ed Guiney. In our interview, he told us that the creative team behind the series had got their hands on the book prior to publication, and a bidding war ensued. He revealed: "We got the book in spring 2018, before it was published and it was only a manuscript. There was intense interest in it and intense competition for it, because 'Conversations With Friends' had obviously been a hit at that stage."
And so executive producers Ed, Emma Norton, and directors Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald set about turning this coming-of-age Irish story about two young lovers in secondary school into a series that would end up becoming an overnight success across the world.
But, what is it that makes 'Normal People' so defining? Why is the world enthralled by these two young characters' tumultuous lives on screen? And how will this change TV shows to come in the future? Well, judging by the reaction the series received by listeners on Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' recently, opinion has been split. Some viewers - who have the freedom of picking up the remote and changing the channel - have argued that the series is too sexual. One listener called the series "a porno movie" while another claimed, "A 17 year old is a child and shouldn't be having sex." True, there are a number of sex scenes throughout - but point us to a romantic comedy which doesn't these days.
Some viewers are missing the point of it all - and there have been quite an impressive number of us tuning in. The clue is in the title of the show. Normal. People. This isn't a glamorous romantic comedy series about the various sexual encounters by two consenting and of-age teenagers, it's the reality that exists in this country any many more across the globe.
But the series isn't all about sex, which some people fail to be seeing past. Both of the main characters are struggling with themselves, as they are forced into adulthood. Just like the rest of us. And they have to deal with various life-changing obstancles along the way - again, just like the rest of us. Throughout the 12-part series, topics close to many viewer's hearts both in this country, and many others, are tackled head-on. Emigration, suicide, depression, GAA, the dreaded Debs, bullying, family drama, making ends meet - it's all there. People move on as we get older, while others stay the same. It's the luck of the draw. Those who believe the series is just an excuse to watch two people going at it need to get with the times, and open their eyes to the storyline unfolding before them. It's touching, honest, and hard to watch at times. And the series ends just like it should - with these two normal people continuing their lives.
This is a modern Ireland that we're seeing before us on the screen, and as we gasp at recognising various streets and cafes from the capital featured throughout the series, we should be proud that we have the capacity to do this. We're no longer just known for our comedic 'Father Ted', our gritty 'Love/Hate', or are hidden behind the curtain of 'Mrs. Brown's Boys', we've got a much deeper substance here than anything that's come before. And we owe it all to Sally, Lenny and everyone involved in this inspiring project.
It'll be exciting to see how much of an impact 'Normal People' can have on society going forward, and if there will be a change in the TV landscape in the years to come.
And this won't be the last of Sally Rooney's novels being turned adapted for the small screen either. While a sequel series to 'Normal People' is highly unlikely, Rooney's debut novel 'Conversations With Friends' is in development but the same team who brought us this extraordinary 12-part series. Providing us with an update on how far along they are with this separate venture, Ed Guiney told us: "Yes, although it's a close cousin in that it's written by Sally, and the team you're talking to here will be building it and working on it, it's a different story entirely. But we're well advanced in developing that, and hoping to make it as soon as the world allows us to make it. We're really excited to get back working on it, and we had in fact started working on it before 'Normal People'."
'Normal People' is currently airing double episodes on RTE One each Tuesday night from 10.15pm.