Thursday 8 December 2016

Television: Old pieties were to the fore in this Rose contest

John Boland

Published 23/08/2015 | 02:30

Thorny issue: Many of the roses were keen to espouse traditional values
Thorny issue: Many of the roses were keen to espouse traditional values

In all my years of watching/enduring The Rose of Tralee (RTE1), I've never been so struck as this week by how so many of the contestants presented themselves as conservatively Catholic in their beliefs and allegiances.

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Indeed, in an era when the Catholic church has taken a hammering in Ireland and when fewer and fewer young people observe the tenets and practices of the faith in which many of them were reared, this year's Rose of Tralee was notable for the traditional pieties that were espoused by the majority of contestants.

This shouldn't really be too surprising - after all, the young women who choose to enter such a competition are unlikely to be the independent-minded young women who disdain the repressions and hypocrisies of the past and who would scoff at the notion of a contest that not just enshrines but celebrates a traditional - and by now quaintly sexist - image of Irish womanhood.

That said, though, this year's 32 competitors seemed even more intent than in previous years on emphasising that, no matter how much they'd travelled the globe, there was no place either like home or like their replication of it in other countries, right down to their membership of church choirs and GAA clubs, whether in Philadelphia or Queensland.

Devotion to grannies was also even more striking than ever, as were tales of illness, Northern accents and self-penned poems of sentimental persuasion and somewhat dodgy quality.

But, sure, it's all part of what we are (or at least were), as was the amiable hosting by Daithi O Se.

For the record, I was rooting for the charming Longford Rose, Daphne Howard, one of the few contestants not promoting Catholic values, but had also been impressed by eventual winner Elysha Brennan. Curses, I seem to have bought into the damn thing.

I can't imagine Amy Schumer lasting long on the Rose of Tralee stage. Either that or the audience would have collectively fainted. Schumer, who stars in the current hit comedy movie Trainwreck, looks like a sturdy cheerleader but is clearly on a mission to make Joan Rivers seem the epitome of good taste.

The second series of Inside Amy Schumer begins this weekend on Comedy Central, and as a taster the same channel offered Amy Schumer Live, which was recorded in front of a San Francisco audience, who gasped at her every utterance.

Indeed, I sat there with my pen poised to record some of her one-liners but found everything she said unprintable in a family newspaper.

Yet while some of her throwaway observations on fellatio, anal sex, defecation, black lovers and pubic shaving were bracingly rude when not downright filthy, I laughed outright only once or twice. Boundary-pushing, in other words, is not always synonymous with hilarity.

There was nothing hilarious about Revenge Porn (Channel 4), in which reporter Anna Richardson investigated the contemporary phenomenon whereby jilted lovers, mostly male, maliciously share intimate photos of their ex on internet sites.

"I wanted to hurt her as much as she hurt me", one guy said of the young woman who'd dumped him, while another female victim was told by the police that it was all her fault by consenting to explicit pictures of herself.

According to Richardon, almost 50pc of young people in Britain do just that, either taking sexual photos and videos of themselves for their lovers to enjoy or allowing the lovers to take such images.

"So should we stop sending such naked pictures?" Richardon wondered. "Yes" would seem to be the obvious answer.

Social media also figured prominently in Terror on Everest: Surviving the Nepal earthquake (Channel 4), which concerned the catastrophe last April that claimed almost 9,000 lives and injured or traumatically affected millions.

Indeed, the film would have been unmakeable in the era before cell phones, as most of the horrific footage derived from these devices. But after gasping at the immediacy of such footage - buildings collapsing on people, avalanches smothering them - the viewer hankered for something more, not least some context and some interest in sober reflection. As it was, the cell phones won the day.

Fake or Fortune? (BBC1) ended its generally engrossing run with a story about an English man who'd bought a painting he was convinced was by Edouard Vuilliard. If so, the £11,000 he'd paid would gain him £500,000 or more.

Meticulous research and some clever detection revealed that Vuilliard was indeed the painting's creator, and only the mannered (and largely redundant) presence of Fiona Bruce as link person detracted from an absorbing film.

Cilla Black was largely associated with ITV, which transmitted such ratings winners as Surprise Surprise and Blind Date, but her earlier career was well captured in Cilla at the BBC (BBC4), which covered the period from the 1ate 1960s to the mid 1970s.

Much of the footage was in black and white, but duets with Dudley Moore, Ringo Starr, Marc Bolan and Phil Everly showed that she'd been at ease in the television studio from the outset, and there was much to like in this fond tribute to a genuine national treasure.

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