Review: ITV's new crime drama Holding just about keeps its grip on the viewer's attention amid the stock Irish blarney

Ireland has changed a lot in the last 50 years – the Celtic tiger, marriage equality, a leading member of the EU – but television still seems to be stuck in the past when it comes to the Emerald Isle.

By Philip Cunnington
Friday, 18th March 2022, 1:39 pm
Updated Saturday, 19th March 2022, 5:10 pm

Holding (ITV, Mon, 9pm), for example, looks at first sight to be that typical TV mix of blarney and scenic beauty.

Adapted from a novel by Graham Norton, it follows Garda Sgt PJ Collins (Conleth Hill) who patrols the streets of a sleepy town in West Cork, where the most-action packed day involves him finding somewhere quiet to polish off the enormous fried breakfast barm is doddery old housekeeper Mrs Meany (Brenda Fricker).

A parade of eccentrics harass him for attention, until one day a skeleton is dug up at a farm being redeveloped into bungalows for rich Americans searching for their Irish roots.

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Conleth Hill as Sgt PJ Collins, in the new ITV crime drama Holding

On the evidence of this first episode, it’s very much in the Ballykissangel-style of TV, an easy watch with some sharp dialogue and a whole array of suspects. It’s very similar to Hamish MacBeth, the old BBC series starring Robert Carlyle as a copper Hamish, whose beat covered one of the most picturesque corners of the Scottish Highlands, and whose occasional dope-smoking kept the series from seeming too much of a nostalgia-fest.

It will no doubt encourage people to visit western Ireland, but at this stage it’s difficult to see if Holding will, well, hold people’s attention.

Hill is good as a man who had ambition but one day woke up to discover all his vim and vigour had disappeared, while there are enough hints of buried secrets amid the begorrahs to intrigue. You just wish, like Sgt Collins, it had a bit more ambition.

We’ve seen a few sagas involving hairy men chopping each other up with massive swords – Game of Thrones, Vikings, Spartacus – but the best of the lot has slipped under the radar. Well, The Last Kingdom (Netflix) has dropped for its final season, and it’s not only the best of its genre, it’s one of the best dramas full stop.

Another Netflix series, Pieces of Her, meanwhile is not nearly as good as The Last Kingdom. A by-the-numbers thriller involving 80s Red Brigade style terrorism, flashbacks and a very slight plot, it is only enlivened by it’s good cast, led by Toni Collette. If there’s nothing else to watch, it’ll do, I guess.