Fair City is an award-winning Irish television soap opera on RTÉ One. Produced by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), it was first broadcast on Monday 18 September 1989, and is the most popular Irish soap opera, as well as the longest running.
Plots centre on the domestic and professional lives of the residents of Carrigstown, a fictional suburb on the north side of Dublin. Originally aired as one half-hour episode per week for a limited run, it is now broadcast year round in four episodes per week. Fair City is the most watched drama in Ireland, with regular viewing figures of between 500,000 and 600,000.
Fair City is set in Carrigstown, a fictional suburb of Dublin. Many of the scenes take place around the main street in Carrigstown, with notable landmarks on the street including McCoy’s pub, Phelan’s corner shop (now Spar, formerly Doyle’s), The Hungry Pig (formerly The Bistro), the Community Centre (formerly The Haven) and Vino’s (formerly Rainbows Sandwich Bar). Other notable settings include the Acorn Cabs dispatch centre, the shared office, the Helping Hand charity shop, the surgery and most recently The Station.
Fair City occasionally makes use of real Dublin locations. Sequences have been shot in the Natural History Museum, on Grafton Street, during the Dublin City Marathon, and, more recently the Zoo and on the Luas, as well as at the National Ploughing Championships.
The series was originally focused on four families: the O’Hanlons, the Kellys, the Clarkes and the Doyles. Some of the earlier characters also included Lily Corcoran, her womanizing nephew, Jack Flynn, Paul Brennan, who worked for Jack Flynn, and Linda O’Malley, an acquaintance of a Jack’s, to whom he had promised fame as a singer. This was similar to the British soap EastEnders, which also originally focused on a number of families and the community in which they lived. Over time the emphasis has moved away from the four families and grown to include the wider community of Carrigstown.
During the 1990s the Phelan, Doyle, and Molloy families were introduced and dominated storylines for that decade. Bela and Rita Doyle, along with their brood of five children and Rita’s mother Hannah, were involved in many stories. The Phelan family originally consisted of Hughie and Natalie, but later a new branch of the family arrived including Hughie’s mother Eunice, and his brotherChristy, along with Christy’s wife Renee, and their two children Floyd and Farrah. The Molloy family was introduced in the mid-1990s and consisted of patriarch Harry, his wife Dolores, and their two teenage children Wayne and Lorraine.
The Halpin family was gradually introduced in the early 2000s, but since then the show’s focus has shifted to individual characters more than family groupings. Notable characters introduced subsequently include Carol Meehan, Tracey Kavanagh, Ray O’Connell, and Jo Fahey. Another change in recent years has been the introduction of ethnic minority characters such as Lana Dowling (née Borodin) and the Udenze family. However, the Udenzes moved back to England after the father Gabriel was burnt to death in a fire, and Lana Dowling was kidnapped and murdered. In 2009 an Israeli character was introduced to the show – Avi Bar Lev (Asaf B. Goldfrid). Avi hails from the town of Haifa in Israel.
Former executive producer Niall Mathews believes the soap’s success is due to the large cast and the fact that no single character or group of characters dominates. “Difficulties are inherent if you are dealing with just one family”, he says. “Look at Dallas and Dynasty; both did well at the beginning, but because all the action was centred on a single family, the writers ran out of things to say.”