Wednesday 28 January 2015

Murphy's lore with a large dose of venom

Published 20/11/2004 | 00:11

The Blizzard of Odd (RTE2) is back, saying those things about Montrose programmes that everyone thinks but only a few dare utter and usually not with the gleeful venom that presenter Colin Murphy brings to his put-downs.

He was in fine form in this week's edition. "Thick is the new gay," he observed of The Dinner Party's moronic inanities, while of Winning Streak he concluded that "many TV programmes suck but none has ever sucked with such eye-popping abandon as this one".

Then, after noting the ubiquitous phenomenon that is Ryan Tubridy ("one person with the talent of half a person doing the job of four people"), he concentrated his mind on The Big Bow Wow: "You can sue McDonald's if you get fat, you can sue Marlboro if you get cancer, you can try suing Guinness for all the ugly people you've shagged, but you can't sue your TV for exposing you to this." It was a series that reduced the viewer from a state of "torpor" to one of "stupor".

Well, perhaps the kindest thing that can be said of RTE2's new series, Love is the Drug, is that it's not The Big Bow Wow, though there are superficial similarities.

It, too, features a bunch of young people in search of fulfilment, it also spends much of its time in a nightclub, it's filmed in the same skittery style and it contains just as many implausible moments, but you're not as scornful of its ineptitude as you were of The Big Bow Wow's.

For one thing, its characters, rather than being cardboard cut-outs, have a life of their own. The three young Drogheda brothers around whom the action (such as it is) revolves are distinct and recognisable personalities and each of the young women who are their objects of desire has a convincing individuality, too.

That's crucial because, frankly, the plot devices are so threadbare and hackneyed as to be worth no one's attention. I never thought, for instance, I'd ever again see a scene in which a young guy, too embarrassed to ask for condoms from a chemist, buys up half the shop's other items instead. (Anyway, why didn't he just get them from the vending machine in the club where he works?)

No, it's not up to much and, after this opening hour, I can't really see where director and co-writer Darren Thornton means to take it over the next few episodes, or why I should be expected to stay with it. But there's a basic sweetness to it that's endearing and I thought Allen Leech and Ruth Negga in the central roles are very natural and charming. Note their names.

Some colleagues told me that I missed the point last week about the opening instalment of Legal Eagles (RTE1), which I thought far too pleased with the limited access it was granted to lawyers for its own good. They felt that the programme was, in fact, quite subversive, letting the young lawyers it interviewed hang themselves with their rarefied, snobbish observations.

I still don't see it like that but there was certainly more substance to the second programme - especially about what solicitors and barristers actually do - and a little more bite, too. The young woman lawyer who featured prominently in the first programme was mysteriously missing but the Hooray Henry guy was still there, as were the two young barristers who are engaged to each other. This pair were even more unlikeably smug than in the first programme and more nakedly attention-seeking, too, going so far as to welcome the filmmakers to their wedding and puffing the publisher of their legal books in their wedding speech. And I cherished the moment when the woman, contemplating her years as an apprentice barrister, said in aghast tones that "someone in a shop" could be "earning more money than you".

Someone earning a lot more than that is celebrity lawyer Gerald Kean and he was filmed in his Killiney pile opening a Denny's tinned pie as the camera panned around the photographs of famous clients on the walls. Don't ask me where the pie fitted into this bling-bling scenario. It certainly wasn't humble.

The Hidden History documentary about Kevin O'Higgins (RTE1) was written, produced and directed by Ted Dolan and had all the unshowy virtues you'd expect from this source. In other words, it was well-structured and intelligent, which aren't qualities you can take for granted in RTE anymore.

What gave the film an added interest is that Higgins remains among the most shadowy figures of his era, lamented by some as a lost leader and reviled by others as a cold proponent of judicious assassination but little talked about - and hardly known by a generation which has some inkling of the importance of Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins in the creation of modern Ireland. This film told his story with exemplary lucidity and gave some real sense of the man, too, though it's impossible to fully unlock the character of someone who could order the summary execution of his best friend Rory O'Connor - "the bestest best man that ever rounded up a bridegroom," as O'Higgins lovingly wrote to O'Connor from his honeymoon suite in London a year earlier.

As Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "no amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man may store up in his ghostly heart."

On Questions and Answers (RTE1), audience member Hilda Geraghty was unhappy that film censor John Kelleher had given a certificate to Michael Winterbottom's latest film, 'Nine Songs'. I gather the film is sexually explicit, but I haven't seen it as it hasn't been shown here yet and Ms Geraghty gave no indication that she had seen it, either. Still, she felt sure that the film "will arouse a high degree of gratification". Only if you let it, Hilda.

Panellist Ronan Mullen, described as a barrister and columnist, called the film "blatantly exploitative", though he hadn't seen it, either. I thought barristers were supposed to base their arguments on evidence.

Finally back to Ryan Tubridy, about whom I feel more charitable than Colin Murphy does. His interview with Miriam Ahern on Tubridy Tonight (RTE1) had its awkward moments, but that was because Mrs Ahern, who seemed a very nice person, was a nervous guest with an obvious sense of her own privacy. The host, though, handled the conversation with warmth and tact. I think he's growing into his new role. jboland@unison.independent.ie

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