Netflix’s Bodkin is Oirish kitsch, but it’s fun and worth watching - TV Review

Irish comedy is made by the Obamas’ production company - they get a life-size cut-out in a petrol station and we get Bodkin

Bodkin. (L to R) Robyn Cara as Emmy Sizergh, Siobhán Cullen as Dove, Will Forte as Gilbert Power. Picture by Enda Bowe/Netflix © 2024
Bodkin stars, left to right, Robyn Cara as Emmy Sizergh, Siobhán Cullen as Dove and Will Forte as Gilbert Power (ENDA BOWE/NETFLIX)

Bodkin, Netflix

Forget some initial bad reviews for Bodkin, a dark comedy set in Ireland and a first effort from a production company set up by Barack and Michelle Obama.

That’s the former US president and his wife who visited his “ancestral home” at Moneygall, Co Offaly, in 2011 and we rewarded them by naming a petrol station after him.

You can still get your picture taken with a life-size cut-out of the couple in the entrance to Barack Obama Plaza if you stop for petrol and a burger just off the M7.

The Obamas have returned the kitsch with this seven-episode Netflix series set in the fictional town of Bodkin in west Cork.

It’s a crime caper which lampoons the popularity of true-crime podcasts, the ego of investigative journalists and Americans’ rosy-eyed view of the auld sod.

US podcaster Gilbert Power has teamed up with the Guardian after he had a hit with a documentary about the death of his wife.

Now he’s moved onto true-crime and he’s been assigned a newbie researcher Emmy and award-winning investigative journalist Dove to hold his hand.

Emmy and Dove discuss 'real' journalism in Bodkin. Picture by Enda Bowe/Netflix © 2024
Emmy and Dove discuss 'real' journalism in Bodkin (ENDA BOWE/NETFLIX)

Emmy’s excited to be out of the office while Dove rages against been forced to return to her native Ireland to get away from an unfurling scandal in London after a whistleblower who provided her with information has taken his own life.

Dove, who appears to have her own criminal history, dresses in all black and takes herself incredibly seriously.

“True-crime podcasting isn’t journalism, it’s necrophilia,” she declares.

Emily engages local lad Sean (Chris Walley of The Young Offenders) as their driver and fixer and they’re off to investigate the mysterious disappearance of three people 20 years earlier at a local Samhain festival.

Samhain was the Celtic precursor to All Souls’ and Halloween.

Emmy gazes at Dove with awe no matter how many times she’s dismissed as a know-nothing.

Meanwhile, Dove makes a mess of every effort of Gilbert to get some “audio” for his podcast

The locals know the secrets behind the disappearance and Dove is convinced there’s a “real story” here.

Therefore, she adopts the bedside manner of a mugger and everyone who might talk tells them to get lost.

Gilbert, who’s proud of his own Irish background, repeatedly tries to tell Dove that there is no story (ie podcast) unless he can get people on his side and convince them to be recorded.

Sean (Chris Walley) is convinced he's Romanian. Picture byEnda Bowe/Netflix © 2024
Sean (Chris Walley) is convinced he's Romanian (ENDA BOWE/NETFLIX)

Getting people onside also included Gilbert getting smashed in the local pub and losing €8,000 in a betting game.

This comes as surprise to Gilbert when he sobers up, but we learn that he’s broke and the success of the Bodkin podcast is more important to him than we realised.

Bodkin sets up a series of Oirish scenes but it’s on purpose and they’re intended to amuse.

There’s Gilbert’s awe as he comes across a game of road bowls, the pub singer who doesn’t talk and the convent of nuns on an island who run a successful spa and yoga retreat.

There’s also plenty of interesting locals. Their driver Sean is convinced he’s adopted and is really Romanian, suspicious Seamus is hiding out in west Cork after a career as an IRA smuggler and Pat Shortt plays non-suspicious farmer Darragh.

Things start to get interesting when Darragh turns up dead and the crime moves forward by two decades.

It’s not the most brilliant stuff available to stream but Bodkin is an engaging watch and worth sticking with while the characters slowly unfurl.

All in all it’s a fair trade. The Obamas get a life-size cut-out in a petrol station and we get Bodkin.