I've mentioned before that Welsh-language television has a bad habit of being not very good. Media is a challenge for a minority language.
While modern media can help to promulgate the ancient tongue, it can also savagely expose a limited talent pool. Only a few of any population are going to be legitimately talented. If the population is 750,000 (a) that few are very few. Sometimes one has to wonder if a programme is on the air simply because there are people speaking Welsh in it.
Another problem for a minority language like Welsh, or Irish, etcetera, is the fact that viewers will compare whatever they see in the language to the stuff they see in English. And they subconsciously expect it to be as good or better. It's not really fair to compare something on S4C to a programme with an audience that is some 15 times larger than the whole Welsh speaking population, but people do. That's life.
"'Sopranos' ger y lli" ("Sopranos by the sea") is how the new programme "Y Pris" bills itself, even going so far as to use music by Alabama 3 (b) in its title sequence. My general feeling is that it's incredibly stupid to deliberately draw that comparison because: 1) People will be hyper-critical, looking to prove you wrong; 2) It makes the show sound unoriginal; 3) "Y Pris" isn't really all that much like "The Sopranos."
One could just as easily describe "Y Pris" as: "Twin Town without as many characters that you wish would die." Indeed, "Y Pris" even features "Twin Town" actors (c). Or you could describe the show as being simply: "Pretty much every stylish British crime/drug film you've seen, in a language you don't understand -- just pretend Begbie is talking."
Whatever it is, it's actually pretty good.
S4C is banking quite a bit on its success, advertising on bus shelters and billboards and the like. They are hoping to create a crossover programme that will appeal enough to English speakers that they'll sit and watch it with subtitles. The channel had a similar publicity blitz for the programme "Caerdydd," which looked like it should have been good but, in fact, wasn't.
Because "Caerdydd" was such a disappointment (the acting was alright, and it was visually well done, but the storyline was insufferable and directionless. And it seemed to have fuck all to do with Cardiff), I've been sceptical about "Y Pris," not actually watching an episode until the second week. I was impressed enough that I tuned in again this week. At the end of this week's episode I found myself thinking: "You know, this is, surprisingly, not shit."
It's even good enough that it could be aired in the United States. Obviously, it would be on some ultra-obscure satellite channel, at 2 a.m., on something like IFC, but it is actually worth watching even if you have no interest in Welsh.
It is worth watching enough, that I will encourage you to watch the programme online. The episodes are only 36 minutes long and broadcast in good quality. You should see the subtitles in Windows Media Player. If not, click the "Play" tab, and go down to "Lyrics, Captions and Subtitles."
One of my favourite scenes so far is actually one done in English, about four and a half minutes into the third episode.
(a) That's the number of Welsh speakers worldwide, according to Wikipedia. I am too lazy to go dig up more official stats.
(b) The title sequence for "The Sopranos" uses Alabama 3's "Woke Up This Morning."
(c) The characters Bryn and Fatty from this clip.