Saturday 3 December 2016

Television review: Watch My Mother... even if it's the last thing you do

* My Mother and Other Strangers (RTE1, BBC1)
* Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge (RTE1)

Published 14/11/2016 | 02:30

Comforting: Aaron Staton as Capt Dreyfuss and Hattie Morahan as Rose in My Mother and Other Strangers
Comforting: Aaron Staton as Capt Dreyfuss and Hattie Morahan as Rose in My Mother and Other Strangers

The five-part drama series My Mother and Other Strangers started on RTE1 last Tuesday with an episode which can be seen on BBC1 tonight. And I was intending to watch it tonight, because there is something about the BBC Sunday night drama uninterrupted by ads that is deeply soothing to the troubled soul.

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But in the light of the American election, not wanting to take the chance that the world might end before the weekend, I watched it on RTE, just in case. And assuming that there is still such a thing as television by the time you read this, I would say it is an unalloyed delight.

This is Northern Ireland's chance to establish itself in the hearts of British and Irish viewers as a place towards which one might have nostalgic feelings - nostalgic in that Sunday night TV sense of loss for something you never experienced in the first place.

In this case it's the great changes which came to the lives of the inhabitants of a rural parish during World War II when the United States Army Air Force decided that this was the ideal setting for an airfield, peopled by about 4,000 Americans who would use it to embark on missions across the skies of Europe with a view to saving the human race - which was apparently in an even more perilous condition back then than it is now.

Written by Barry Devlin, who has owed us nothing since 1970 with the formation of Horslips, and starring Aaron Staton who played the guy with the eye-patch in Mad Men, it is also about the Americans trying to get off with some of the more acceptable natives and vice versa, as always tends to happen whenever people feel that they mightn't have long to live.

So it has that sense of the small world meeting the big world, a lot of great old cars being driven, and great old music being played, and great old clothes and furniture and food and great old stuff of every description.

I'm just glad that I have seen it, and with a bit of luck - and you may need it - it will find the audience that it deserves tonight.

***

Tommy Tiernan wasn't on for procrastinating either. He was sitting there on Cutting Edge with Brendan O'Connor and Niamh Horan and Norah Casey and since they asked him "who or what is showing signs of life for you?", he told them.

It's Liverpool Football Club, he explained, taking the panel in perfect seriousness though the minutiae of Liverpool's "floating front four", the style with which they have risen to the top of the Premier League, his own yearning for the team to be successful, and his devastation when they just failed to win the league in 2014.

It took moral courage for him to do this, because the way the world is now, people often censor themselves if they feel that others in the company mightn't have a clue what they are talking about - there is a kind of a convention in our culture these days that the people who matter out there are people who don't give a damn about the subject in question, that you should always be thinking of those who mightn't be up to speed, and that you should tailor your comments accordingly - ideally by not making them at all.

Tommy wasn't having that, and indeed while the reactions around the table were not unsympathetic, he was connecting deeply with hundreds of thousands of Liverpool fans such as myself, who understood that he wasn't being funny here; that he does know how a losing US election candidate feels because like them, when Liverpool lost the league, he lost much of his reason for being.

But then "moral courage" always brings me back to John Giles, who again was not on RTE's World Cup Qualifier panel yesterday, nor will he be for ever more. I don't think we should be letting this go, especially in a week when Sir David Attenborough was celebrated for his new series, Planet Earth 2.

The decision to "retire" Giles was clearly age-ist, but they didn't even get that right.

He is still about 15 years younger than Attenborough.

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