Friday 24 January 2020

Buckets of ice and all things nice in Tralee

Television review

Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Cartoon by Jim Cogan

Sarah Caden

We were only four minutes into the first night of The Rose of Tralee when it stepped into the 21st Century.

It wasn't the appearance of 2FM's Will Leahy on our screens, however, though his inclusion was probably the-modern-world-big-idea of the programme, with his selection of tweets and online postings, none of which captured the fact that slagging off the hickeyness of the event is half the fun of watching.

No, it was the first mention of the Ice Bucket Challenge that not only posited The Rose of Tralee in 2014, but also put it slightly ahead of the posse on a modern cultural phenomenon, instead of trailing decades behind the rest of the world.

"Have you heard about this Ice Bucket Challenge?" five-times host Daithi O Se asked Leahy. "It's something to do with your mother-in-law wants to inflict some sort of pain on you, is that true?" Leahy replied.

For those who hadn't seen various US celebrities at it on the internet - by that stage, the likes of Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Bieber twice, with shirt on and shirt off - Daithi explained all.

A person is challenged to have a bucket of ice thrown over them, if you refuse, you must pay €100 to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association; but if you take the hit, you pay only €20, and get to nominate three other people.

On Tuesday night, Daithi took his bucket of ice, nominated three former Rose of Tralee presenters, Ray D'Arcy, Ryan Tubridy and Marty Whelan, and so it spun on. And on and on, in RTE in particular.

You might well hope that each of them coughed up more than €20 each, particularly as the week wore on and they were in-house nominating like billy-o in RTE. You were no one in Montrose if you weren't nominated.

Last week, Marty Whelan nominated Kathryn Thomas; Tubridy nominated the 2fm Breakfast Republic presenting trio; Kathryn Thomas nominated Imelda May, Marty Morrissey and Miriam O'Callaghan.

Sharon Ni Bheolain was nominated by 2fm's Jenny Greene, and the newsreader's soaking was shown on the Nine O'Clock News on Tuesday night.

Ni Bheolain commented that she wasn't really a fan of online or celebrity challenges, but that she made an exception because of the charity in question. She was, perhaps, the single voice of sanity in the back-slapping, ice-chucking fiesta that characterised the week, but no one in RTE was listening, so busy were they running around with buckets and basking in the cosy glow of being part of the big happy celebrity family.

And it all started on The Rose of Tralee, at the end of which the Philadelphia Rose, Maria Walsh, was crowned.

"There are plenty of other cases like me out there," Maria said after her win. "I'm not the only short-haired tattooed one, or even long-haired tattooed one out there," she continued, referring to the three ladybirds on her neck, which were a talking point onstage with Daithi.

Short hair and tattoos might be acceptable on the modern Rose of Tralee, but I suspect that Bridget, daughter of Ray on Ray Donovan might still have difficulty in seizing the crown. Unless her father literally seized it for her and by launching much worse than an ice bucket at Daithi.

The Donovans are the antithesis of the image of the Irish diaspora that the Tralee festival holds so dear. Boston-Irish relocated to LA, Ray (Liev Schreiber) is a fixer for the city's rich and famous, a man who cleans up messes made by the publicly squeaky clean.

He gets dirty on their behalf and it doesn't bother him to get dirty, though he wishes he could shake off the ghosts of his hard-knocks past.

Ray thinks life would be perfect if he could forget the abuse perpetrated on him and his brothers by a Boston-Irish priest and if he could only make his father, Mickey (Jon Voight playing Christopher Walken) disappear.

Ray's wife, Abby (Paula Malcolmson) does at-home elocution lessons to round out her flat Boston twang, but Ray knows deep down that where he came from is part of who he is. And he's determined that his kids, Bridget (Kerris Dorsey) and Connor (Devon Bagby) turn out to be all-American, clean-cut, straight-A kids.

Dysfunction runs deep, however, and Bridget Donovan hasn't dodged the special kind of self-doubt, self-loathing and screwed-up guilt that makes her as Irish as anyone up on the stage in Tralee.

There's more to being one of our own than learning the right Irish dancing steps and joining the right clubs. There are some clubs of which you're a member whether you like it or not.

The Rose of Tralee (RTE 1)

Ray Donovan (Sky Atlantic)

Sunday Independent

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