Soft Border Patrol
Connor (Patrick Buchanan) and Tracy (Diona Doherty) of the Soft Border
Patrol. Photo: BBC Northern Ireland
I've always had something of a conflicted relationship with the BBC NI mockumentary Soft Border Patrol. Like, and I suppose this is no coincidence, the Brexit process full stop, it's often unsure of its identity. The comic and visual potential in an increasingly impending and marginally probable reality of a patrolled border between the UK and Ireland is undeniably rich but, at least until the second series, there's been a real lack of certainty about what to do with it.
The argument that such confusion mirrors real life was, unfortunately, muted by a peculiar lack of urgency in a difficult-to-sit-through first series. It was like watching a well-organised, compact and systematic football team who often draw 0-0 (and I've been there, many times) - the foundations for success were there, there was a repeated longing for the set-up to succeed, but the target was missed too often.
I am happy to say that the show has since found a stronger footing amidst its all-over-the-place inclination. Where many of the sketches once drifted, they now flow. Where a series of one liners once fell flat, they now crackle. And a succession of scene-stealing guest stars, including Emer McDaid, Keith Singleton, Dan Leith, Ciara Mackey, Richard Croxford, Michael Patrick and Derek Dubery, fully and vigorously inhabit set-pieces brought to life by the who's who of NI theatre and comic talent in charge of patrolling our borders - Diona Doherty, Patrick Buchanan, Julie Maxwell, Caroline Curran, Neil Delamere, Michael Condron and more. It's still not great, but it's worth looking forward to - and that's a major step up.
Best, a once slightly ill-at-ease Karen Hassan is now a luminous presence as Chief Executive Lisa McCoy, the friendly face of the SBP who has the unenviable job of finding new ways to keep the metaphorical madhouse ticking over. Knowing what we may really face soon, we could do a lot worse than have a Soft Border Patrol to look after us.
The final episode of the second series of Soft Border Patrol airs tonight at 10.35 pm on BBC One NI and will be repeated on BBC Two NI this Sunday. For more, click here.