RTE One recently ran a pilot for a new Irish comedy about surrogacy. The pilot, consisting of one episode is part of an RTE (Irish National Broadcaster) and Screen Ireland showcase initiative to support new and emerging Irish talent.
I did look at it on the player and I don't think I have laughed so much in a long time, yet something kept telling me that I shouldn't be laughing when it concerns such a serious subject.
In short, the story line is simple. Older sensible sister Liz, married to a weak husband with a gambling problem, asks her younger sister Ciara to be their surrogate.
When we meet Ciara, it is immediately evident that she is the last person on Earth anyone would consider as a suitable person to be a surrogate. She is big party girl. Drink is a big part of her life - first thing in the morning she stretches across and pours herself a glass of red wine from the wine box beside her bed. She is also a smoker. She is totally irresponsible and unreliable with absolutely no sense of what it is to be grown up. She is just managing to hold on to her job. Her life is a mess.
When she is first told of the plan to have a baby through surrogacy she wonders what that has to do with her and very quickly sets out the demarcation lines: she is not going to babysit. She is amused when she hears that she is being asked to be the surrogate. She talks of renting her uterus and wonders if she will be paid...
Her flat mate is equally dysfunctional. For her a quiet mid-week night at home is not complete without a slab of beer, cigarettes and something stronger to smoke.
There is a drink-fuelled discussion between Ciara and her flat mate about surrogacy and what it means. How will it happen, will Ciara have to sleep with her brother-in-law, and what of not being able to have sex and booze while pregnant? This all makes for very interesting and hilarious entertainment.
It is only when the penny finally drops that she will be eligible for six months paid maternity leave that Ciara reconsiders the proposal. In a moment of absolute inebriation, she texts her sister and the rest is history.
If Ciara goes ahead with the plan and takes on her obligations seriously then I suspect that it might be very difficult for this programme to develop as a comedy. That said the other characters we have met could be developed. The husband has a gambling problem. He is also his wife's subordinate. The women's father could be interesting. He is not long widowed and is active on a dating app. He is actually dating much to the consternation of both daughters.
The real question is whether comedy is the appropriate forum for a woman continuing to behave badly when pregnant. If comedy were not an essential to the success of the pilot, and Ciara does mend her ways, this could be developed into a very heart-warming story of love and the strength of the bond that actually exists between siblings, even if they are such polar opposites.
We do see Ciara starting an exercise programme with a very hot trainer so maybe this could be developed. There is room for redemption.
This is only a trial run, and it is comedy pretty much at its best. The concept is very imaginative and entertaining, that said, I am not sure that it can be developed further as comedy with the sensitivity the topic deserves.