Eureka Street

Monday, September 20, 1999 by

Eureka Street boasts an evocative score (like an elongated preamble into Blur’s Caramel) and fluid camera work. But is there anything else to it?

This viewer approached with trepidation. As terrible as the Troubles are, I’ve always found it difficult to enjoy Irish drama. I’ve never understood or held any interest in religious differences, so I enter the fray as something of an illiterate who can’t be bothered to learn. Eureka Street is based on a novel anyway, as betrayed by the first episode’s opening narration.

One presumes the first two episodes are setting the ground work for what’s to come. Certainly it’s difficult at this point to anticipate exactly where Eureka Street is headed. Two main strands appear to be developing: the rise of Chuckie (an atypical social loser with a talent for unique thinking) and the exploration of the troubled Jake (a bailiff), whose surface insouciance one suspects will be eroded at some point in the proceedings. The most affecting scenes of the first two episodes display tantalising glimpses of a side to Jake that he (as narrator) does not want us to see – his affiliation with the rough, foul mouthed street urchin, his surveillance (shades of Scrooge) of his foster family experiencing the same parental troubles that he once inflicted upon them, and the discovery of his ex-girlfriend’s pregnancy test kit. It’s in these subtle ways that Eureka Street draws you in.

Like the best of recent BBC dramas, we are allowed to place our own significance on the series’ motifs. Mysteries develop discreetly: what does “OTG” (daubed on the pavement outside Jake’s flat) mean? Is it important? And what are we to make of the unlikely rise of Chuckie Lurgan? An absurd scam involving giant dildos, followed by a business award of over £1 million, then a whirlwind (seemingly motiveless) romance with American Max are all played for laughs. Yet one senses an underlying cynical insight into success. The main connecting parallel between the unfolding stories appears to be an examination of how a motivated individual can subsume those around them: Jake’s mugging at the hands of the police is used by Aoirghe (a political protagonist described in Radio Times as “fiery”) as a tool for propaganda, whereas Chuckie’s newly acquired wealth is exploited by practically anybody who meets him.

The second episode ends in dramatic style. Like real life, it is not telegraphed and totally unexpected. White faces and stillness, gushing water, the eventual sound of sirens. Yet I’m still unclear which way this Street is headed or indeed what I think of it. The characterisation still remains a little distant, but the performances are fine. The central story line is engaging, yet perhaps lacking a little in direction. We’re half way through, and I’m still not sure if its started yet. Maybe it’s just me. Certainly, I’ll stick with it: for the street urchin, for the music, for the time being and for my troubles.


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