Tuesday 17 October 2017

From Grammys to 'Girls', it's women galore on TV - except on Pat Kenny Tonight

Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick on the set of Pat Kenny Tonight. Photo: Brian McEvoy
Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick on the set of Pat Kenny Tonight. Photo: Brian McEvoy
Shimmering: A pregnant Beyoncé stole the show at the Grammys
Zosia Mamet, Lena Dunham, Jemima Kirke and Allison Williams, the central cast of HBO's Girls, a programme about four young women struggling through their quarter life crises
Sheridan Smith has been praised for her portrayal of Julie Bushby in the BBC1 drama The Moorside (BBC/PA)

Meadhbh McGrath

Awards season has hit its peak, and this week we had two major ceremonies. The circus rolled into town for the Baftas (BBC One), which opened with a baffling routine by Cirque du Soleil. Host Stephen Fry played it safe this year - no repeat of the 'bag lady' incident of 2016 - but managed to get in some decent digs at Trump and Prince William, who is, we learned, the president of Bafta. Wills could only be trusted to introduce Simon Pegg, who was himself introducing Mel Brooks, thus ending the night in convoluted Inception-style fashion.

Political speeches have become the new normal and straight out of the gate, filmmaker Ken Loach - who was awarded Outstanding British Film - attacked the "callous brutality" of the Tory government in a searing speech which left Best Actress winner Emma Stone's later ode to "the positive gift of creativity" in "divisive" times feeling rather tepid indeed.

Laura Whitmore in a look that Melania Trump favours (Ian West/PA Wire)
Laura Whitmore in a look that Melania Trump favours (Ian West/PA Wire)

Politics were similarly at the forefront at the Grammys (RTÉ Two), which featured charged performances from Katy Perry and A Tribe Called Quest (during which Busta Rhymes condemned 'President Agent Orange'). Adele swept the top prizes, but it was a pregnant Beyoncé who stole the show, with a hypnotising performance featuring shimmering holograms and a gravity-defying chair. Music's biggest night was again plagued by technical issues, from Metallica singer James Hetfield's microphone cutting out to Adele restarting her tribute to George Michael.

A heavy post-Trump significance attended the rebooted 24: Legacy (FOX), in which Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer was replaced by Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins). It may have been filmed before the President even got into office, but the nightmarish vision of Islamic terrorists was straight out of one of Trump's late-night, all-caps tweet storms.

Shimmering: A pregnant Beyoncé stole the show at the Grammys
Shimmering: A pregnant Beyoncé stole the show at the Grammys

Radicalised terror groups have long been 24's bread and butter, but in 2017, the implied link between Islam and extremism is more potent than ever, coming across like an ad for Trump's Muslim travel ban.

In another, Clinton-led reality, we'd probably be more interested in how Carter fares over his predecessor and the answer is: not well. He's an enjoyable action hero, but his character isn't as immediately intriguing as Bauer was, given only flat relationship drama and big-budget fight sequences to work with. He's also black, as are his wife and brother - who is, inevitably, an armed drug dealer, which leaves you wondering whether the writers could imagine black characters that didn't fit the gangster stereotype.

Sheridan Smith has been praised for her portrayal of Julie Bushby in the BBC1 drama The Moorside (BBC/PA)
Sheridan Smith has been praised for her portrayal of Julie Bushby in the BBC1 drama The Moorside (BBC/PA)

There was plenty of tension in the conclusion to The Moorside (BBC One), which told the story of the hoax kidnapping of eight-year-old Shannon Matthews in Yorkshire in 2008. Gemma Whelan, unrecognisable from her role as Game of Thrones' Yara Greyjoy, was extraordinary as Shannon's mother Karen. It would have been easy to demonise her, but Whelan played her as a pitiable woman who didn't seem to realise the gravity of what she was doing.

The series was billed as revolving around the community's efforts in the search for Shannon, but the second half was altogether more bleak. Then-Prime Minister David Cameron's comments about "broken Britain" were featured, as Julie lamented how "all that goodwill just evaporated". It left viewers with a stark portrait of how vulnerable communities have been cruelly neglected.

Zosia Mamet, Lena Dunham, Jemima Kirke and Allison Williams, the central cast of HBO's Girls, a programme about four young women struggling through their quarter life crises
Zosia Mamet, Lena Dunham, Jemima Kirke and Allison Williams, the central cast of HBO's Girls, a programme about four young women struggling through their quarter life crises

Girls (Sky Atlantic) returned for its final season. What started out as a ground-breaking comedy (with anti-heroine Hannah's proclamation, "I think I might be the voice of my generation", forming a mission statement for the series) lost its way, but last season was sublime and the premiere offered hope that Lena Dunham will end the show on a high. It followed Hannah's trip to a Hamptons' surf school for the dubiously-titled 'Slag Mag', and who can blame Dunham for casting The Night Of's dreamy Riz Ahmed as her love interest?

Closer to home, the cast of Gogglebox Ireland (TV3) were suitably embarrassed by The Late Late Valentine's Special. "Oh Late Late, stick to the conversations I think," one of the Ryan boys groaned as Linda Martin and Al Porter performed a Grease tribute, surrounded by a pack of somewhat belligerent audience members. "It's not the f***ing Euros," teenager Tadhg wisely observed.

Singer Linda Martin performs on ‘The Late Late Show’ Valentine’s special last week. Photo: Andres Poveda
Singer Linda Martin performs on ‘The Late Late Show’ Valentine’s special last week. Photo: Andres Poveda

Toughest Place To Be (RTÉ One) saw nurse Berna Breen dispatched to Tegucigalpa, the busiest A&E in Honduras. The show was at pains to illustrate what a radical shift this was: we watched Berna treating trips and falls in Waterford and chuckling at home with her friends, before a violent cut to a Bourne-esque sequence depicting the "most dangerous capital city in the world", all thumping music and shots of guns.

The scenes in Honduras got that point across well enough on their own, as Berna was immediately greeted by a construction worker with a graphic hand injury, who received no pain relief during treatment. The white subtitles were barely legible, but everything we needed to know was written on Berna's horrified face.

Berna Breen treated casualties in Honduras
Berna Breen treated casualties in Honduras

Returning home, she reflected: "We forget how much we have and we tend to focus on what we don't have." A compelling documentary and a neat bit of PR for the HSE to boot.

The political fallout from the McCabe scandal kept the primetime shows occupied, and Pat Kenny Tonight (TV3) did a fair job remaining level-headed, until his giddy exclamation of the "good news" that the government had won a vote of no confidence. I can't say I'm surprised Colette Fitzpatrick has quit the show - turning to the story of the week, Kenny announced "we have four people joining us", before the camera panned out to reveal four decidedly male people. Still a long way to go.

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