Monday 20 October 2014

Cullen rightly plays Trump card

The Apprentice (TV3), Who Do You Think You Are? (RTE1), Off The Rails (RTE1), All-Ireland Final (RTE2)

Published 28/09/2008 | 00:00

They led us on there, for a while. They put it about, that on TV3's version of The Apprentice, Bill Cullen was going to fill the Alan Sugar role, except he wasn't going to say, "You're fired!", he was going to say, "You're barney-bracked!", which apparently is folksy Dublin rhyming slang for "you're sacked".

Immediately we felt that frisson which comes over us when we suspect that something really and truly terrible is about to take place on our screens. That a perfectly successful foreign formula is about to be Irish-ised, and all the good taken out of it. Over the years, RTE has made something of a fetish out of destroying perfectly good English programmes by copying them in virtually every respect, and yet somehow leaving out the one magic ingredient that made it all work -- it was almost a sort of genius. Surely TV3 wasn't going to go there? They're running a business after all, so they'd know that when the punter goes to McDonald's in Dublin, he wants exactly what he gets in McDonald's in London -- he doesn't want a bit of coddle on the side. He is happy enough with "have a nice day", he doesn't need folksy Dublin wisdom thrown in. Mercifully, TV3 seems to understand this. So you could be looking at the Irish Apprentice, and at no stage would you feel any more "Irish" than you'd feel when you're watching the Donald Trump version. As Bill Cullen intuitively knows, this is not about being Irish, it's about being an unmerciful bollocks -- a universal human quality, which is the same on Moore Street as on Madison Avenue.

Cullen does the business here, better than you could ever have anticipated. He pounces on every weakness in an apprentice's spiel, not just to show how clever he is, but to juice them up with his own entrepreneurial zeal. He's really sparking here, displaying all the raw instincts which make a guy rich. I'm watching him closely, because Bill and I are business rivals. We are both authors, battling it out in the fiercely competitive books market. And though my books are much better than his (which I'm sure he'd admit), his sell more than mine. In fact, they sell more than just about everybody's. How does he do it? I'm watching you Bill, I'm watching every move.

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Learning from its past mistakes, RTE is sticking rigidly to the BBC formula which created the successful genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?. And yet that old impulse to fix what ain't broken, can still be discerned in the fact that the first two programmes in the series were about RTE personalities Charlie Bird and Joe Duffy. A later programme will feature Pamela Flood, another RTE presenter. So out of six programmes, three of them feature RTE presenters, and there is also Linda Martin, who has worked extensively on RTE. So perhaps a more accurate title would be Who Do RTE Personalities Think They Are?. I have no idea how they arrive at these decisions, which do not necessarily have any bearing on programme quality, but which just look bad. I mean, when the names Charlie Bird and Joe Duffy came up, did it not occur to anyone to suggest that one of them might be enough, just for appearances sake? And if they just couldn't think of anyone else who might have an interesting family tree, could they not at least have separated them by a few weeks in the hope that no one would notice, instead of putting them out there one after the other? We have now seen Charlie Bird searching for his soul in India, and his roots in Bermuda, which doesn't really work for Bird, whose charisma was always based on an almost psychotic single-mindedness, on the idea that after standing outside Leinster House reporting for 72 hours, he really had nothing else to do and no home to go to. To discover that he has a life is disappointing. On the issue of Pamela Flood, I regret to say that I find the new presenters of Off The Rails, Sonya Lennon and Brendan Courtney, marginally more effective than their predecessors Pamela Flood and Caroline Morahan. Now the show seems less about the presenters, and more about... whatever Off The Rails is about. On the upside for Flood and Morahan, my opinion of Off The Rails is almost certainly worthless.

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BY contrast, my views are always well-received in GAA circles, so in this week full of the Irish trotting after the British, we should pay tribute to the men of Tyrone. Cor, what a sporting year it's been already for the Brits. At the Olympics, Team GB won 19 gold medals. At Flushing Meadows, Scotsman Andy Murray reached the final of the US Open. The England cricket team captained by Kevin Pietersen is turning it around with outstanding performances. Even the England football team under Fabio Capello is showing promise. And now Tyrone win yet another title, on foreign soil. It must be something in the water.

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