Saturday 22 October 2016

Ian O'Doherty TV reviews - Game of Thrones, Lenihan: A Legacy, and The Speakmans

*Game Of Thrones, Sky Atlantic
* Lenihan: A Legacy, RTE One
* The Speakmans, UTV Ireland

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Frightened blind: Arya (left) faces the wrath of the Faceless Man in the Game of Thrones series five finale
Frightened blind: Arya (left) faces the wrath of the Faceless Man in the Game of Thrones series five finale

I must admit, I came rather late to Game of Thrones, having initially dismissed it as just another swords and sandals with boobs fantasy series.

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The reasons for my initial apathy were many and accurate - there are lots of swords, lots of sandals and it famously boasts more naked flesh than any other mainstream show.

Even more off putting were the fans, who managed to display that weirdly serious and humourless dedication to their favourite show that is peculiar to nerds everywhere.

In other words, Game of Thrones contains absolutely every element needed to make it a ridiculous, pompous and po-faced piece of pretentious fluff. And yet it has managed to become one of the most compelling programmes to have appeared on our screens this decade.

As much as I approached this Season Five with a greater degree of interest than any of the previous outings, this was still tempered by the fact that it really is the most absurd show I've ever seen.

Aiden Gillen's Littlefinger is simply morphing into his recent portrayal of Charlie Haughey, although there may be a certain symmetry to that - after all, it isn't hard to imagine that the real Haughey may well have have had a great old time in Westeros.

Yes, there are undoubtedly times when the show looks like a Saturday Night Live sketch. But by God it has become addictive.

In fact, I can imagine many fans secretly understanding that no good can come from being hooked on a programme so silly that it features a character known as 'Mother of Dragons' but, like all addictions, there are also moments of almost irresistible pleasure.

Certainly, this season has become even darker and more bleak, if such a thing was possible.

But despite all the usual bleating about the sexual violence meted out to the female characters, the one genuinely upsetting moment of the show so far came when Stannis (played with cold relish by the reliably brilliant Stephen Dillane) burned his own daughter at the stake in last week's episode - which set up this week's finale with aplomb.

One of the most tiresome questions about the show has been the plaintive cries of 'are there no limits to the savagery?' and we finally learned that, yes; yes there are limits - and burning your kid at the stake for the sake of your future crown would appear to be one of them.

The screams of the child Shireen as the flames took hold, and the look of horror on the faces of even his blood-thirsty troops, will remain long in the mind and for all the atrocities we've seen, that was one memorable set piece.

Monday's episode might as well have been called 'The Culling'.

A mortally wounded Stannis ends up asking for Brienne to put him out of his misery following his battlefield defeat. Sansa and Theon decide to jump from the castle walls. Arya apparently ends up blind and, of course, Jon Snow is betrayed and killed by his own Night's Watch, who now regard him as a traitor.

That death, particularly, caused gasps of dismay and, to be honest, in the middle of all this death and carnage, it was impossible not to stifle a laugh.

Not out of any joy that so many apparently integral characters were being cut down with gay abandon, but because you just knew that the Thrones fans would be inconsolable and, let's face it, anytime super fans are upset, we should all celebrate.

While the gleefully psychopathic Ramsay Bolton was probably the most entertaining character to emerge from this season - anyone who can giggle as he skins people alive is okay in my book - the strongest scene belonged to Lena Headey's Cersei, who was forced to do a literal walk of shame. Having fallen afoul of the High Sparrows (basically, the Taliban) she was marched, naked, through King's Landing while the peasants hurled abuse at her and a cruel nun chanted 'shame' as she prodded her in the back.

There was something oddly familiar about that set piece and then it hit me - the people of Westeros may not have Twitter, but their nature is the same.

Only in Ireland could the word 'intellectual' be used as an insult, yet Bertie Ahern managed it perfectly in the revealing Lenihan: A Legacy.

Ahern was withering in his assessment of the late Brian Lenihan, the man who had to cope with both cancer and being the Finance Minister who presided over his own country's funeral.

We learned that Lenihan liked to listen to Wagner in his car and, worse, was fond of poetry.

As Ahern archly pointed out: "The more intellectual they are, the less work they want to do."

For all his cunning, however, Ahern was still too dense to realise that the remark said much more about him than it ever did about Lenihan.

Like most rational people, I have no reason to watch UTV Ireland, but anyone who stumbles across self-help show The Speakmans should tune in, for the comedy value alone.

A peculiarly coiffed husband and wife team of shrinks, they 'helped' a woman who had a phobia of sharks.

Was there some secret trauma that caused an unreasonable fear of being eaten alive?

Yeah - she saw Jaws as a kid.

Interestingly, the patient said she had a "crippling" fear of sharks and she admitted that: "It gets worse when I get near the seaside."

That's the thing with sharks, you see. They wait until you get in the water before they eat you.

Sneaky buggers.

Irish Independent

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