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Single Handed (TV series)

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Written by
Barry Simner

Original language(s)

Final episode date
12 December 2010



Country of origin

First episode date
18 March 2007


Single-Handed (TV series) httpsimagesnasslimagesamazoncomimagesMM

Directed by
Colm McCarthy (series 1) Antony Byrne (series 2–3)

Owen McDonnell Ian McElhinney Steve Blount Liam Carney Pádraic Delaney Bríain Gleeson David Herlihy Ann Marie Horan Nick Lee Ruth McCabe Michael McElhatton Charlene McKenna Laura Murphy Marcella Plunkett Owen Roe

Ian McElhinney, Michael McElhatton, Pádraic Delaney

Single-Handed is an Irish television drama series, first broadcast on RTÉ Television in 2007. Set and filmed in the west of Ireland, it focuses on the life of a member of the Garda Síochána (police), Sergeant Jack Driscoll (played by Owen McDonnell). Three two-episode, single-story series aired one each on consecutive nights in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Series Four, consisting of three stories told over six episodes, began in RTÉ One November 2010.


The series is partially inspired by garda corruption in County Donegal.


The first series was shot in October 2006. It was directed by Colm McCarthy; the second and third by Antony Byrne. Barry Simner wrote the screenplay. It was co-produced by Touchpaper Television Productions and Element Pictures. Clare Alan also produced the third series.

In 2009, all three series were broadcast in the United Kingdom on the ITV1 network, as double-length, two-hour episodes on three consecutive Sundays, from 2–16 August.

Series 4 began broadcasting on RTÉ One on Sunday, 7 November 2010. It was shown in the UK on ITV1 from Thursday, 14 July 2011.


Owen McDonnell was given the lead role of Garda Sergeant Jack Driscoll after receiving a call from casting director Maureen Hughes. Appearing onstage in The Lieutenant of Inishmore in the Town Hall, Galway at the time, McDonnell, alongside two other cast members, left for Dublin to read a script for the original Single-Handed director Colm McCarthy. He was given the lead role one day later.


The series has been consistently popular in Ireland since its first broadcast, with the first series receiving a 40% audience share. However, leading actor Owen McDonnell has been able to escape a significant increase in recognition by the general public as, according to him, "once you're out of the uniform you're fairly anonymous". He has, however, been criticised for suggesting that alcoholism and depression are widespread in Connemara.

Gavin Corbett, writing in the Sunday Tribune, dismissed the original series as "an uninspired piece of writing brought to some sort of lugubrious half-life, superficially engaging for a while, but growing more and more ponderous and pofaced the longer it went on over its two nights". Patrick Freyne, also writing in the Sunday Tribune, called Single-Handed 3 "all puffed up with a melodramatic 'I-can't-believe-it's-not-drama' form of drama in which people glare at one another, shout, are unhelpfully abrasive for no reason, and give each other symbolic bullets". John Boland, writing in the Irish Independent, praised the original Single-Handed for its "taut and suggestive" screenplay. Heralding it as "the real deal" and "that rare oddity—an RTE drama that works" and drawing comparisons to the Roman Polanski film Chinatown, he said "it didn't lose its nerve by resorting to far-fetched plot twists or ludicrous melodrama". Boland's report on the sequel indicated his view that it "wasn't as arresting as its predecessor but it was a superior drama all the same". Boland viewed Single-Handed: The Drowning Man as also being a "superior drama" whilst "a sense of place was arrestingly captured, too". When Single-Handed eventually aired in the UK in 2009, he noted the reactions of the British newspaper critics, remarking satirically on how "The Guardian's Sam Wollaston and The Independent's Tom Sutcliffe couldn't contain their surprise that dark doings lurked behind the 'stunning scenery' of this Irish Hoirtbeat. Faith and begorrah, lads, shure we're even in the EU".

The UK debut of Single-Handed received 4 million viewers.

The Daily Telegraph, a broadsheet in the UK, said Single-Handed was "distinctly classy" and "not soft-centred. In fact it's more like biting into an apple only to find there's a worm in it". The regional newspaper, Leicester Mercury, remarked that it "confounds expectations from the very beginning", saying "it was dark, not dreary. And slow, not stupid. There wasn't even a hint of Irish whimsy about it. No-one's eyes twinkled, humorously. No fiddly jigs and reels drifted from the pub. And no-one—praise be—mentioned the damned craic".

Irish Film and Television Awards

Single-Handed received one nomination at the Irish Film and Television Awards in 2008. It was nominated in the Drama Series/Soap category but lost to The Tudors.

Seoul International Drama Awards

Single Handed 3: The Drowning Man received two nominations at the Seoul International Drama Awards. Anthony Byrne was nominated in the Best Director category and Barry Simner was nominated in the Best Writer category.


Under the name "Jack Driscoll" has the series been aired at least twice in Denmark, on the primary Public Service channel DR 1. The episodes has in traditional Danish manner for Irish & British TV series been put together, and has hence a length of around 90 to 100 minutes (DR uses no advertising).


Single-Handed (TV series) Wikipedia

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