Thursday 8 December 2016

Television review: There is always wonga out there to be had

* RTE Investigates (RTE1)
* FIFA, Sepp Blatter, and Me (BBC1)

Published 14/12/2015 | 02:30

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan

When councillor Hugh McElvaney emerged as the star of Prime Time Investigates, many viewers briefly confused him with the legendary Scottish sportswriter who is called Hugh McIlvanney (the extra "n" is key) and remarked sadly that they would never read his column in quite the same way again.

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But it was not so widely observed that another member of the cast of RTE Investigates, councillor Joe Queenan, shares his name with a fine American writer, one of whose books I have read and greatly enjoyed - it was about the Office of Vice President of the United States, and the various characters who served in that role, many of whom, according to that other Joe Queenan, were "borderline nincompoops . . . lechers, drunks, crooks, traitors and whoremasters".

As for councillor John O'Donnell, the Donegal "entrepreneur", there is a distinguished poet of that name. All of which I am sure is a total coincidence, though it may suggest that in certain bloodlines there is this streak of creativity.

Certainly in the case of Irish Hugh McElvaney, it has to be said that there are few people in public life who can make you laugh out loud without even trying - and without even appearing on screen. Just his voice on the phone recorded by the undercover reporter 'Nina', and that perfectly delivered line, "are you going to pay me by the hour or by the job?", was enough.

And I suppose that recognition is a large part of what makes us laugh, which suggests that we know this routine already, and what we are seeing here is just a perfectly played performance of it.

Personally I would like something new - something that we know already about the state of poor old Ireland, but that for some strange reason we have decided to ignore, like, say, the way that judges are appointed. I mean, if we were talking about some place like, say, Paraguay, and if it drew down that they have a system in Paraguay whereby the judges were appointed by the politicians, we would smile knowingly and say something like, "that's your South America for you".

We would consider it so inherently wrong, such a twisted form of administration, one so open to the wrong interpretation, shall we say, that it could only happen in one of those primitive societies.

But it goes on, albeit not with the theatrical flourishes of some cartoon character with a heavy Monaghan accent.

I guess we are asked to believe that at these higher levels, they are beyond reproach.

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Which brings us to the other source of our Monday night TV entertainment, FIFA, Sepp Blatter and Me.

Andrew Jennings, the reporter who has made the destruction of the Blatter regime his life's work, is 'Me'. And so far advanced is he on this project, as he set out from his home in Cumbria one more time in pursuit of bad men, there was a sense of celebration, a sense that he really had taken them down.

They do not seem so regal now as they hide in their limousines, these potentates of football at whom he has been shouting his questions for such a long time. And his loud laughter as he hears of some new FBI move against them, is a reward in itself.

Still if I was an ambitious and energetic local politician watching this, I probably wouldn't be that concerned with the proximity of the Feds, more with the astonishing amounts of money to be made out of a skill-set not much different to my own.

Of course with such men, there's always a danger that they'll just go too far - which FIFA did by giving the World Cup to Qatar, or rather by selling it to Qatar, which was the equivalent of awarding the Winter Olympics to some country where it never snows. They had done many bad things, but this was just too bad.

And yet so many of them are old men now, they may feel they've had a pretty good run at it, regardless.

Again the thing that will claim the attention of the young entrepreneur is not necessarily the tireless investigative work of white-haired old Andrew Jennings, but the gargantuan quantities of wonga out there for the fellow who wants it.

These blazers, they know how the world works. In fact they are the world.

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