The Dry review: This Irish sitcom sparkles once you get past the alcoholism cliches

Television: Series two is a huge improvement on the first iteration of this Dublin-set show starring Ciarán Hinds

The Dry (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 9.35pm) doesn’t do itself any favours by pouring jet fuel on the cliche of Irish people all being swivel-eyed alcoholics. “The impulse to drink and to let go is deep in the psyche,” one of its stars, Ciarán Hinds, said in a recent interview with a British newspaper (like all Irish comedies, The Dry aired in the UK first).

Hinds, who lives in Paris, went on to say that Ireland was “for many years a priest-ridden country, steeped in the notion of sin”. It’s like soft power in reverse. We’re going around the world telling everyone we are uniquely maladjusted. Do other countries have an issue with substance abuse or religious dogmatism? Apparently not.

That said, series two is an immense improvement in that it generally ignores the alcoholic storyline and paints a droll story of a dysfunctional family whose Irishness is an incidental detail, not the whole point. The excellent Róisín Gallagher is Siobhán, a former high-flyer in London who has moved back to the family home in quaint, backwater-y Dublin to kick the booze.

She’s a mess – but then, so is the rest of her family. Her busybody mother, Bernie (Pom Boyd), has accepted that she, too, is an alcoholic and is attending Siobhán’s AA sessions. Bernie has also moved in her new boyfriend Finbar (Michael McElhatton from Game of Thrones) while relegating husband, Tom (Hinds – another Game of Thrones alum), to the shed. There are love woes, too, for Siobhán’s high-achieving younger sister Caroline (Siobhán Cullen), while their party-mad brother Ant (Adam John Richardson) has substance abuse issues of his own.


The Dry is written by Nancy Harris, daughter of journalists Anne and Eoghan Harris. Though she lives in London, her portrait of Dublin is relatively authentic. We see Siobhán strike up a spark with a hipster barrista (Sam Keeley) in Stoneybatter (a caricature that is actually accurate) and later attend a gig at Vicar Street.

The ageism Tom experiences in his job as a delivery driver feels true to life, too. The Dry also captures the sleepiness of middle-class Dublin suburbia – a largely unexplored milieu where the most exciting thing that can happen is your waste disposal company picking up the wrong wheelie bin.

The show cannot entirely shake off stereotypes. Bernie, for instance, is the standard interfering, passive-aggressive Irish mother – a caricature writers continue to indulge. However, the cast is excellent and the script has a nicely wry charm. It’s a pity that it celebrates the overplayed trope of Irish alcoholism, but ignore the lazy cliches, and The Dry is a sparkling sitcom that goes down smoothly.