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24th Dec 2016

These Are The Hidden Gems Of Irish TV That You May Have Missed In 2016


2016 has been an AMAZING year for Irish-made television shows.

We’ve laughed, we’ve sighed, and – we’re not ashamed to admit it – we’ve wept like a baby over some of the TV screenings that have been on offer this year.

Ireland’s creative filming industry has outdone itself this year, but there may just be a few shows that have escaped your radar. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on these absolute national treasures (we’re sound like that), so here’s the creme-de-la-creme picks from this year.

If you haven’t seen some of these, watch them immediately. You can thank us later.

1. The Story of Yes

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One beautiful day in May 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to publicly vote for same-sex marriage. This uplifting documentary from RTÉ2, aired exactly one year later, tells the story of the marriage referendum through the eyes of those who it mattered to most – the LGBT community and their families. 

The programme will transport you back instantly to the atmosphere in Ireland at the time, using powerful and emotional interviews with people who suddenly found their personal lives thrust into the spotlight. The referendum wasn’t just about the right to marriage, but about a long journey to acceptance in Ireland.

A real feel-good doc that will make you so, SO proud to be Irish. 

Watch online here

2. Toughest Place To Be

Mel And Mark

First aired back in April, the first episode of this series showing the hardest places to live across the world documents the experience of Dublin City Council worker Mark, who swaps his official overalls for tough street sweeping in Manila, Philippines. 

He pairs up with the instantly like-able Mel, a 43 year old worker in a suburb of the city, who invites Mark into his family home and shows him the ropes. With heartbreaking poverty shown throughout the show, it makes for difficult viewing at times. But it’s Mark’s honest reactions and the close-bond that he forms with the family that makes this a special gem.

Human empathy and emotions at their very finest.

Watch online here

3. Fortune’s Wheel

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Half love-story, half incredible tale of lions and circus life long forgotten, Fortune’s Wheel is a remarkable (and amazingly true!) story of local Dubliner, Bill Stephens who had a dream – become a skilled lion trainer and a big-top circus star. 

The dream became a reality for him and a nightmare for the people of Fairview when one of his lions escaped onto the crowded streets in November 1951. The memories of the local community are brought to life with interviews and newly-found photographs that will make you believe in love again as you see how Bill and his wife, Mai, strive to escape the reality of Irish life in the 50’s, with devastating results.

Watch online here

4. Older Than Ireland

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This film was so charming that many had it tipped for an Oscar nomination.

It shows what it’s like to live a hundred years in Ireland from the point of view of 30 Irish centenarians, who are all older than the Irish Republic itself. They reflect on their lives growing up during the Irish independence, and remember their first kiss, their one true love (in some cases, love-s plural), and the ultimate death of their loved ones.

There’s some really hilarious characters featured in this that will make you think twice about the elderly, and perhaps inspire you to pay more attention to your Granny’s words of wisdom.

Buy DVD online here (It’s worth every cent)

5. I am Irish 

02 Gareth Alcorn Iamirish Midas Productions

I am Irish is the final episode of the ‘I am…’ series on RTÉ 2, following on the from I am Immigrant and I am Traveller programmes. 

It takes a look at what it means to “be Irish” in Ireland today, particularly for 18-34 year olds. Irish Times journalist Una Mulally explores this concept through a number of interviews with young people on matters such as religion, sexuality, justice, equality, fertility and more.

The different points of view held by people across Ireland is fascinating to see, and to uncover what is the common thread that binds us all together as one.

A show that will really make you think.

Watch online here

6. Reality Bites

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This breakthrough documentary series of one-off programmes from this year shines a light on the issues affecting young people in Ireland, presented in an excellent, harrowing, but often entertaining way.

Top episode include author Louise O’Neill exploring the issue of consent in Ireland in Asking For It; Stephen Byrne tackling the absence of openly gay sports stars in Playing it Straight; and former Mr World Kemal Ibrahim going behind the scenes at the Miss Nigeria-Ireland contest in Miss Nigeria Ireland.

There’s something for everyone in this series – a definite must-watch.

Watch online here

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