Friday 23 August 2019

John Boland: Marty and Bernard as modern men? I don't quite buy it


Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea at the launch of RTÉ One's brand new series Marty and Bernards Big Adventure
Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea at the launch of RTÉ One's brand new series Marty and Bernards Big Adventure
Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea at the launch of RTÉ One's brand new series Marty and Bernard's Big Adventure
Dancing all the way to Manhattan: Bernard O'Shea and Marty Morrissey

John Boland

During the second-last season of Dancing with the Stars, a "bromance" apparently developed between GAA commentator Marty Morrissey and comedian Bernard O'Shea, and the two terpsichorean contestants have been best buddies ever since.

You'd need to be a very sad person, or maybe just from RTÉs publicity department, to find that even remotely interesting, but such is our national broadcaster's mania for anything to do with celebrity that it's now built a series around the duo.

To be honest, the first instalment of Marty and Bernard's Big Adventure (RTÉ1) wasn't as cringe-making as I'd expected. They're an amiable pair who do seem to get on well together, though what exactly they brought to this week's topic remained unclear.

Here, according to the annoyingly chirpy voiceover, were "two old-school Irish men, mature but young at heart, on a quest to make their mark in the world of the modern man". And so they took themselves off to get manicures and facials and haircuts before heading to Manhattan for liposuction and botox and fashion shoots.

Dancing all the way to Manhattan: Bernard O'Shea and Marty Morrissey
Dancing all the way to Manhattan: Bernard O'Shea and Marty Morrissey

The supposed joke throughout all this was that neither Marty nor Bernard could ever be mistaken for George Clooney, let alone George Ezra, but when they weren't sashaying about in silly clothes they evinced a genuine sense of inquiry about contemporary masculinity that made the whole shenanigans bearable, if never less than intensely silly.

Meanwhile, over on BBC2, a vanished Ireland was being evoked in Showbands: How Ireland Learnt to Party (BBC2), with presenter Ardal O'Hanlon explaining what the showband phenomenon had provided: "the soundtrack to a tumultuous three decades in Ireland - a time of fierce poverty, cultural isolation, clerical dominance and sectarian violence."

That was perhaps laying it on a bit thick for non-Irish viewers (oh, those poor priest-ridden Celts), and the potted history of the Troubles was a bit simplistic, too, but O'Hanlon was an agreeable guide to the showband scene and there were lively contributions from Barry Devlin of Horslips, Eileen Reid of the Cadets (getting her famous beehive ready for each gig was "a monster in itself") and Dickie Rock of the Miami.

Dickie had gone solo by the time three members of the band were slaughtered by the UVF and UDR when their minibus was flagged down on their way back from Banbridge in 1975, and in the film bass player Stephen Travers and band leader Des Lee, both of whom miraculously survived, spoke with stark eloquence about the horror they experienced.

"That was the night the music died in the North," said showband singer Margo, and indeed it gradually petered out down south, too, but this film paid fond tribute to its heyday.

Travers and Lee's traumatic accounts also feature in The Miami Showband Massacre, a 70-minute documentary that's currently available on Netflix but that fails to shed any new light on this terrible story, not least about whether the British army and/or British intelligence colluded in the killings.

And The Murder of Jill Dando (BBC1) came up with no answers about who killed the 37-year-old BBC broadcaster on her Fulham doorstep 20 years ago this month. Local oddball loner Barry George was jailed for her killing but was released from prison eight years later after an appeal court overturned his conviction.

It seems unlikely now that anyone else will be charged with her killing, though relatives remain hopeful that the perpetrator will eventually be caught. And, indeed, much of the film was spent with colleagues and friends who were content to recall her with affection.

The week's viewing had fictional murders, too, especially in the riveting opening scene of the new season of Line of Duty (BBC1), with three police officers shot dead on a country road as they escorted a lorry-load of heroin to an incinerator.

Jed Mercurio, who created both this hugely popular series and also last year's overrated Bodyguard, favours such nail-biting setpieces, but he also loves wrong-footing viewers, so the only thing that can safely be expected is the entirely unexpected.

And so the main villain here, played with frightening menace by Stephen Graham, was revealed at the episode's end to be an undercover cop embedded in a criminal gang. But could that possibly be true of someone who'd just overseen the murders of three colleagues?

And what about upright cop Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), who's been epitomising incorruptibility for the past five seasons? Could he really be just as rotten as some of his predecessors, not to mention the people he's tasked with investigating?

Don't bet against it (think of Keeley Hawes and Thandie Newton in previous seasons), though once again this series has me hooked from the start.

On a more tranquil note, the painfully titled Vitamin Sea (RTÉ1) was an hour-long paean to the healing power of water as experienced by people seeking physical, mental or spiritual solace.

It was very artfully shot and though some of the individual stories were interesting it all went on a bit too long and too slowly, as if the makers thought they were making a timeless tone poem.

And in the new season of At Your Service (RTÉ1), the Brennan brothers have succumbed to the Lucy Worsley vice of dressing up and larking about. This week they were helping out a husband and wife who run a military museum in Co Meath and Francis couldn't resist putting on some of the costumes.

Then he and sibling John turned up at the revamped re-opening in a tank. Oh, stop it.

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