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Paul Whitington’s TV pick of the week: First Dates Ireland


Barman Ethan Miles from First Dates Ireland

Barman Ethan Miles from First Dates Ireland

Barman Ethan Miles from First Dates Ireland

Back in late-1970s Ireland, teenagers at Irish college céilís were separated by sex and lined up on either side of an austere dance floor. If a girl wanted to dance with a boy, she would do so under the watchful eye of the múinteoir, the jiggers turning bright red as they were jeered from either side of the room. At convent-school dances, female associates recall nuns placing books in the laps of boys before girls sat on them, to avoid unfortunate levitations. That was then, but old-style puritanism is back on the latest series of First Dates Ireland!

All right, all right, it’s been foisted on the producers by circumstance, but in this season of the dating show, any physical contact is absolutely forbidden, and dissenters will be sent straight to the principal’s office. So no touching, no holding, absolutely no biting, and to make matters worse, prospective wooers will have to make their romantic case watched by friends and family members, who will be guffawing away in the background no doubt, in socially distanced dining bubbles.

Still, the show must go on, and it’s an achievement to have managed to make this sixth season work at all in the current dreary climate. Off we go then, as maître d’ Mateo, barman Ethan, Alice and Pete throw open the restaurant doors to welcome more love pilgrims.

Among the daters hoping to impress are Philip from Tipperary, who sports a rather splendid Mohawk and makes his entrance on a skateboard; best friends Aimee and Laura from Co Down, who’ll be plighting their troths in plain view of their mammies, and 35-year-old Shane from Meath, whose recovery from a serious head injury has landed him his first date in 14 years.

Shane is paired tonight with Avril, a level-headed single mother from Dublin. And also up to bat this week is 26-year-old Tracy, also from Dublin, who arrives in a red dress only to be suffused in crimson as 26-year-old Cork redhead Rob endeavours to woo her. And the very best of luck to all of them.
Thursday, RTÉ2, 9.30pm


Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper's Wife

Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper's Wife

Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper's Wife

Films of the week

The Lone Ranger
Tonight, BBC2, 9pm
Sprawling Western starring Armie Hammer as a lawyer who adopts a masked persona to fight injustice on the Texas frontiers. With Johnny Depp, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Sunday, Channel 4, 12.20am
When a timid backroom worker at Life magazine sets out in search of a missing photographer, his grey life explodes into technicolour. Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig and Shirley MacLaine star.

Hacksaw Ridge
Monday, TG4, 9.30pm
Mel Gibson’s gruelling war drama is based on a true story and stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Ross, a Christian conscientious objector who enlists as an army medic and becomes a hero during the Battle of Okinawa.

Birds of Prey
Tuesday, Sky Premiere, 8pm
Harley Quinn is devastated when The Joker ends their romantic relationship but soon discovers that living badly is the best revenge. With Margot Robbie.

The Great Gatsby
Thursday, Sky Drama, 8pm
Baz Luhrmann’s lively adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel stars Tobey Maguire as a Great War veteran who’s recuperating in Long Island when he becomes obsessed with the wealthy, elusive man who lives next door.

The Zookeeper’s Wife
Friday, RTÉ2, 9.30pm
Drama based on the true story of a Warsaw zookeeper who sheltered and saved hundreds of Jews during the Nazi occupation. With Jessica Chastain.

Video of the Day

Best sport

Horse racing
RTÉ Racing
Today, RTÉ2, 1pm
Dublin Festival
Hugh Cahill, Jane Mangan and Ruby Walsh are live at Leopardstown for day one of the Dublin Festival, with race commentary from Richard Pugh.

Live Six Nations
Today, Virgin Media One, 1.30pm
Let battle commence
The 2021 Six Nations kicks off in Rome, where Italy face France. Then, at 4.45pm, we’re off to Twickenham for England versus Scotland.

Live Six Nations
Sunday, Virgin Media One, 2pm
Ireland’s wake-up call
Joe Molloy and guests set the scene for Ireland’s opening Six Nations tie of 2021, as they welcome a rebuilding Welsh side to the Aviva. Kick-off 3pm.

TV picks

Current affairs
RTÉ Investigates
Tuesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm
Covid: the third wave
A journey behind the scenes at Tallaght Hospital to find out how health workers have dealt with spiralling case numbers in recent weeks.

Trump Takes on the World
Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm
International incidents
Donald Trump’s foreign affairs advisers pull their hair out as they recall his chaotic assault on America’s most important strategic alliances.

Thursday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm
An epic voyage
As the shipment of cocaine continues its troubled journey from Mexico to southern Italy, infighting within the gang could jeopardise everything.


Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. Courtesy of Netflix © 2021

Sheena McGinley’s streaming pick of the week

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel
Netflix, Wednesday

There is so much to unpack here, it’s difficult to know where to start… In saying that, however, one could argue that this tale of mental health, web sleuths, serial killers and a downtown LA hotel would have been best suited to a feature-length documentary as opposed to a four-part series. I say this merely as a warning not to give up on it after the first episode. Just like Elisa Lam, this Don’t F*ck with Cats-meets-Bates Motel hybrid has much more to offer.

Having become seasoned Netflix documentary aficionados, we’re all now accustomed to the pivotal WTF moment. Abducted in Plain Sight had its clanger, as did The Keepers, The Staircase and — more recently — Night Stalker. Usually, the WTF moment makes itself known in the second episode, and the same is true for this documentary. For those unfamiliar with the story of Elisa Lam, it’s a nauseating and tragic turn.

In 2013, Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian student on a quest to find herself, seemingly vanished while staying at the infamous haunt of serial killer Richard Ramirez. Not satiated with the findings of the LAPD, a slew of web sleuths went on an online quest to decipher what exactly happened to the young blogger. Ricocheting off many issues, including mental illness, chronic social inequality, accountability and the danger of conspiracy theories, not only is there a lot to unpack here, there’s also a lot to learn.

Also streaming…

The Dig
Netflix, streaming now
It speaks to the times in which we currently live when a movie set in Britain on the brink of WW2 is universally deemed a “break” and a “holiday” by those who’ve enjoyed viewing it as yet. Released last week, it centres on an amateur archaeologist excavating “the mounds” on a wealthy widow’s estate. When they make a historic discovery, the echoes of Britain’s past are illuminated in the face of its uncertain future. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Lily James and Johnny Flynn, this true story has literally has set Netflix aglow.

Amazon Prime, Monday
Written by Emmy Award winner Will Bridges (Stranger Things, Black Mirror) and Brett Goldstein (SuperBob, Adult Life Skills), this six-parter is set 15 years in the future and focuses on the new scientific discovery giving those seeking a soulmate the ability to find their exact match. Naturally, this opens many cans of worms for those seeking love and those already in established relationships. With each episode devoted to an entirely different couple, expect to see a flurry of faces, including Sarah Snook’s, AKA Succession’s Siobhan.

The Snoopy Show
Apple TV+, streaming now
And now for something completely different… and yet entirely familiar. Apple TV announced its intent to release a Peanuts offshoot on the show’s 70th anniversary, with each episode comprising three individual shorts lasting seven minutes each. So, what’s different? Well, as the title suggests, Snoopy takes centre stage, with the first show depicting just how he met Charlie Brown. Ardent fans of the original shouldn’t be disappointed, and by that I mean it’s not a CGI fest.

Buried by the Bernards
Netflix, Friday
What if Six Feet Under was a reality TV show? There’d be one major difference, however — the Bernards are more tuned into the emotional side of proceedings. In 2017, the family opened the doors of their funeral home, offering complete yet affordable funeral packages to help their community deal with high funeral costs. One part understanding, a pinch of sarcasm and a heaping spoonful of blatant honesty, the Bernards bring a side of laughs to the toughest of times.

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