Thursday 29 September 2016

Television: The Long Shot review - 'few will remember a doc that gave the viewer little reason to care about David Keoghan'

Reviews: The Long Shot (RTE 1), Creedon's Wild Atlantic Way (RTE 1), Joanna Lumley's Trans-Siberian Adventure (UTV), The Erotic Adventures of Anais Nin (Sky Arts) and Witnesses (Channel 4)

John Boland

Published 02/08/2015 | 02:30

Big gamble: David's bid for success on the track in The Long Shot (RTE1) was not a winner.
Big gamble: David's bid for success on the track in The Long Shot (RTE1) was not a winner.

David Keoghan bought a racehorse, as one does, which then went on to win at Ascot, thus enabling David to buy five other racehorses, which ended up winning next to nothing. So he sold them, though for less overall than he'd paid for them.

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That was the story told in The Long Shot (RTE1) and I got the impression you were meant to feel for David's plight as an adventurous outsider who, in the words of the voiceover, was going up against such "Goliaths of horseracing" as John Magnier, JP McManus and the Aga Khan.

Such sympathy, though, might have been easier to summon up if David had just been an ordinary, northside, working-class guy and not the husband of former Taoiseach's daughter and multi-million-selling author Cecelia Ahern, who popped up in Ruan Magan's film to assure us that David was a "very positive" person and that was what she "adores about him".

In the film, though, he was less adorable than frowning and fretting as his steeds consistently failed to arrive first at the finishing post. And even at the end he remained stubbornly defiant about his attempt to compete with the Goliaths. "Did it fail?" he asked. "Define 'fail'." How about, not succeeding?

But he also ruefully remarked that "no one remembers second best", and I'm afraid few will have cause to remember a documentary that gave the viewer little reason to care about its central character and that didn't even tell us how he came to acquire the Ascot-winning horse that had made his subsequent venture possible. And we learned almost nothing about his former career as a notable 400-metre hurdler.

Meanwhile, it's midsummer out there (ha!), which means that it's time yet again for RTE Radio DJ John Creedon to drive around the rural countryside and tell us all what we're missing when we embark on our foreign holidays.

This year's three-part series is entitled Creedon's Wild Atlantic Way (RTE1) and never mind the fact that it's up against a current TG4 series, Feilte: Sli an Atlantaigh, in which Maire Treasa Ni Dhubhghaill is traversing much the same route and with much the same kind of chat agus ceol. Isn't RTE scheduling great?

Creedon, though, has his own amiable presence and last Sunday night's first instalment showed him at his best, engrossed in the places and people he encountered while remaining easygoing about it, too. I especially liked his visit to Dursey island off west Cork, where he accompanied a postman on his rounds of a beautiful landscape that's now almost empty of inhabitants. There's been no school there since 1975 and as Creedon poignantly remarked: "The only sound on Dursey that day was the island's own death knell".

More hackneyed was his sojourn in Dingle ("West Kerry's party central"), but there were quirky interludes in Schull and Ballinskellig, the only real let-down being a somewhat awed encounter with west Cork resident Jeremy Irons, the presenter excitedly assuring us that Irons "really seems to have embraced the spirit of the place - Jeremy gets it, he really gets it!"

Joanna Lumley certainly got it in her three-part series, Joanna Lumley's Trans-Siberian Adventure (UTV). Last week I praised the warmth, grace and intelligence she brought to her Mongolian encounters, but she was even more winning on this final leg of her journey, which ended up in the Moscow she'd last visited in 1966 as a 20-year-old model for a Vanity Fair shoot.

She met some model hopefuls in a studio. "Gorgeous girls", she marvelled and asked the photographer why so many of today's young Russian women were so beautiful. It was because of the "blood mixture", he opined.

She also reflected on how both Moscow - which had "embraced capitalism with almost religious zeal" - and herself had changed in a half-century. And she was taken to an underground bunker, where she was shown the Soviet Union's first nuclear weapon, built in the year of her birth. "How awful", she told her military guide. "I'm twinned with this bomb".

The Erotic Adventures of Anais Nin (Sky Arts) purported to be a documentary about the French-born daughter of Cuban parents who went on to achieve literary fame in the Paris of the 1930s, but it seemed more like an excuse for lots of soft-focus soft porn, all writhing bodies filmed through gauzy filters.

Nin's own erotic short fiction, anthologised in such posthumous bestsellers as Delta of Venus and Little Birds, was a good deal sexier than anything here, and there was only cursory mention of her friendships and affairs with such luminaries as Henry Miller, Edmund Wilson and Gore Vidal.

Indeed, there's a good film to be made about the intriguing Nin, who also wrote copious and revealing diaries, but this wasn't it.

However, the new French thriller series Witnesses (Channel 4) is the real thing, spookily unsettling as police in a bleak northern seaside town try to discover who placed two sets of disinterred corpses in empty show houses.

Thierry Lhermitte is imposing as the elderly detective who may be concealing secrets, while Marie Dompnier is winningly good as the tenacious young colleague with problems of her own.

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