“Normal People”: How a TV show Rocked the Irish Pandemic Lockdown

Carol Owens

Normality, Freud remarked in 1937, is an ideal fiction. I am going to speak this morning about the TV adaptation of the book “Normal People” by Irish author Sally Rooney, a piece of fiction, which has been idealised in numerous ways. Directed by Oscar nominated Irish director Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald, the show was aired two nights apart on RTE1 and BBC3 six weeks into the Irish lockdown. The series competed with the BBC 9 O’ clock news for audiences anxious to hear the latest on the Coronavirus, giving BBCThree its best ever week on iPlayer with requests up to 21 million, while on RTÉ Player it garnered over 3 million views again breaking the highest previous record. In his recent book Pandemic! Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has advocated that right now we should gladly succumb to all our guilty movie and TV pleasures, himself confessing a preference for dark Scandinavian—preferably Icelandic—crime series. In Ireland, not only were we holding our breath for the next episode in the series, we were also writing about it in the Newspapers, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and talking about it on the radio, on zoom calls with friends and loved ones in forbidden zones, and in psychoanalytic sessions. According to CNN columnist Jill Caddell Normal People was irresistible viewing for abnormal times. Nice tagline. But what was so special about Normal People, and why did the series attract so much attention during these Abnormal times?

Continue reading…