TV review: How to be happy? It’s a big ask
Published 30/06/2014 | 02:30
The title of Dr Maureen Gaffney's programme How To Be Happy, would appear a tad ambitious at first glance. But then for many of us at this time a surprisingly obvious solution presents itself. With How To Be Happy on RTE1, and the World Cup on RTE2, the answer to Dr. Gaffney's proposition can be found in the simple instruction: "switch to RTE2 immediately."
But to be fair, there are some people who would favour the Gaffney approach, and it was an interesting bit of scheduling by RTE to run this two-part series against the tide of Brazil 2014. It has shades of The Guardian newspaper's "Not The World Cup" series which recommends TV programmes such as the Hannibal series on Sky Living, or Wallander on BBC Four, or the box set of the much-admired Sharpe series starring Sean Bean, all of which might be seen as a manly alternative to the football.
So RTE is perhaps leaning more towards the stereotypical here, with How To Be Happy meant to function as a kind of a refuge for women at this difficult time. Indeed I may be leaning that way myself, because I would suggest that women, on the whole, are more engaged in the pursuit of happiness, whereas men tend to regard it as such an utterly impossible quest, they don't even bother trying to get there. They look at Dr Maureen Gaffney addressing a crowd, suggesting ways in which they might be happy, or least a bit happier, and to them she might be offering advice on how you might fly to the moon in an abandoned Morris Minor. It just doesn't register.
Partly, I think they are deterred by the notion that in order to be happy in the Dr Maureen Gaffney sense, you might have to actually do something. You might need to do some work on yourself, as they say.
Happily, the work which Dr Gaffney required of her pupils was often admirably simple. While the promise of the title was a bit much, her advice about the benefits of raising self-esteem and generally trying to have a positive attitude would resonate with many viewers - not least with those of us who predicted that Brazil would win, but who formed the view early doors that they are not very good.
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Jeremy Paxman, who retired recently from Newsnight, would probably introduce a "newsworthy" World Cup item with a weary expression, perhaps even an apology for wasting the viewer's time with some story about "22 millionaires kicking around a pig's bladder".
He was in many ways a brilliant broadcaster, and yet he had stopped being a hero to me a long time ago. I think I just grew out of it. When I was about 21, I thought that Paxo was magnificent, an implacable foe of the political class, and a man who knew everything. But eventually I started to learn a bit more about how the world worked, and now I realise that that item he did with Boris Johnson on his last Newsnight was the perfect representation of Paxo's true position in the great scheme.
There they were, riding a tandem around London, bickering with one another but essentially joined in a mutually beneficial activity, pointed in the same direction. And of course like so many political "jokes", it was appallingly unfunny. A few months ago, he interviewed a really funny man, Russell Brand, who may not go to the sort of dinner parties at which Jeremy or Boris can be found, who did not go to Oxford or Cambridge but who has achieved much anyway, and who incidentally is a much better writer than Jeremy or Boris could ever aspire to be, even working in tandem.
And Paxman put it to Russell Brand that he - Brand - is "a trivial man". Again it showed this strange lack of awareness which was evident in the tandem caper, a failure to realise that the "trivial man" here, on balance, is more likely to be the one who has spent so much of his life arguing the toss with the likes of Boris Johnson. It is not good for a man's soul, to waste his days in such shallowness, and sure enough Paxman towards the end did not seem like the happiest of individuals.
Not that that matters.
How To Be Happy (RTE1)