Wednesday 20 September 2017

All clichéd on the Eastern front

Frontline RTE 1 The Savage Eye RTE2 Mrs brown's boys RTE 1 Meon na mBan TG4

On Monday night's The Frontline (RTE1), host Pat Kenny introduced us to all but one of the hopefuls who'll be battling for the four Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown seats in the upcoming election -- the exception being Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who had declined the programme's invitation to participate.

Well, as Eamon has repeatedly declared his intention of becoming the next Taoiseach, you could hardly expect him to be sharing the same studio with such Johnny-come-lately upstarts as People Before Profit poster boy Richard Boyd Barrett, Fine Gael's Mary Mitchell O'Connor and independent councillor Victor Boyhan.

And in the event he was probably wise to absent himself from a discussion in which none of the candidates did themselves any favours and no cliché was left unexpressed.

Tourism minister and wannabe Fianna Fáil leader Mary Hanafin did herself the least of favours, not just with her coy refusal to say where she stood in the heave against Brian Cowen, but also with her repeated pledge that she'd reveal all to the nation the very next day -- a promise that she somehow failed to fulfil less than 24 hours later (though her position became known the following day). Amnesia can be a terrible affliction, though obviously mandatory for politicians.

As it was, The Frontline was not, as Mary prissily put it, "the appropriate forum" in which to disclose her intentions, though when it came to clichés she was outshone by her Fianna Fáil running mate Barry Andrews, whose main concern was to "put the country first" by focusing on "real issues".

Fine Gael's Sean Barrett also showed his mastery of hackneyed waffle with talk about "collective responsibility", while the Green Party's Ciaran Cuffe's contribution came in the form of a sombre reference to "challenging times".

For her part, Mary Mitchell O'Connor had "every confidence in the Irish people", which may prove over-optimistic come election day, while Richard Boyd Barrett opted for that least persuasive of prefacing remarks: "Let me make it absolutely clear . . ."

If this suggests that the hour-long discussion was in some way entertaining, well, it wasn't. It was indescribably boring, with not one of the eight candidates having anything provocative or encouraging or even remotely interesting to say.

As someone who lives in the constituency, I was left at the end wondering who on earth I'd be bothered voting for. Two cheers for democracy, how are ye -- in the circumstances, a slow handclap was more appropriate. And just think, there are weeks upon weeks of such debates to come before we get the Government we deserve.

What's needed is a good satirist, though on the evidence of his current series, David McSavage isn't the man to fulfil that role. Mind you, The Savage Eye (RTE2) was always patchy in quality, but in previous incarnations its scattergun scorning of political doublespeak, religious hypocrisy and social pieties had occasionally been outrageously funny.

Not any more, though. Resting on last year's fragile laurels, McSavage has been content to resuscitate the same old characters (the bullshitting politicians, the demented publican -- and why is Mary Robinson still President of Ireland in 2011?) as they rehash the same old stuff to ever-diminishing returns.

RTE2 follows The Savage Eye on Monday nights with Stand and Deliver, which was recorded in Galway's Roisin Dubh and offers itself as Ireland's answer to BBC1's Live at the Apollo.

So far it's been a poor man's version of the latter, with the imported acts (Stewart Lee, Reginald D Hunter) having more impact than the local talent, though no one has been firing on all cylinders. Maybe next week.

RTE1, not known for its comic touch, isn't likely to alter that perception with Mrs Brown's Boys, a lazy and self-indulgent affair in which Brendan O'Carroll's Finglas matriarch steps out of character whenever she feels like it to mug at the camera and laugh at fluffed lines.

The humour itself is so old-fashioned and corny that you keep expecting Maureen Potter or Danny Cummins to make an appearance. In fact, the whole thing is so contentedly cosy that the four-letter language seems singularly inappropriate.

In Ruby and the Duke (RTE1), the Ruby was Belfast pop singer Ruby Murray, who had a few soulful hits in the 1950s until rock'n'roll swept sweet little chanteuses aside, and the Duke was Duke Special, a dreadlocked young musician, also from Belfast, who championed her cause in this hour-long documentary.

A half-hour would have been sufficient to chronicle her meteoric rise, her descent into alcoholism and her death in 1966 at the age of 61, but there were charming and poignant moments along the way, mostly from her ex-husband Bernie Burgess, but with interesting contributions, too, from Paul Gambaccini, Phil Coulter, Brian Kennedy and David Holmes.

Zen (BBC1), adapted from Michael Dibdin's Italian-set thrillers, has come to the end of its brief run. It suffered from the same basic faults as Kenneth Branagh's Wallander, with English actors pretending to be foreigners while maintaining their estuary accents. Because of this, I could never get into the intended mood. Nor did I find Rufus Sewell persuasive in the lead role -- he looked far too pleased with himself as he blundered his way through implausible storylines. It was prettily filmed, though.

Kerry heartthrob Daithi O Se seemed overly pleased with himself, too, in this week's instalment of Meon na mBan (TG4), which translates as mind or character of women. One of the questions asked was "What's good about being single?" and Daithi had two responses to it: "You can always go out with the lads" and "If you're a sex addict you can sleep with every woman you like."

For most men, of course, that would depend on whether the women wanted to sleep with them, but, hey, Daithi's not most men.

Still, there's an upside to being in a steady relationship. "One of the advantages of going out with someone is regular sex," Daithi revealed, sex being a positive thing "because you feel good while you're doing it and after it."

Not many people know that, but then not many people are aware either that romance is no use if it's not accompanied by sex. This insight came from sultry siren Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh, who explained her reasoning on the matter: "It's like eating dinner and not having dessert afterwards."

Run that by me again, Blathnaid.

jboland@independent.ie

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