Saturday 21 September 2019

'Angela Scanlon and Maia Dunphy's programmes are the ultimate Me generation self-indulgence' - Pat Stacey

Girlish charm: Angela Scanlon: Full Frontal was far from revealing
Girlish charm: Angela Scanlon: Full Frontal was far from revealing

Pat Stacey

Who is Angela Scanlon and why is she all over my television screen? Not just all over it, but posing smugly all over it.

Every now and then she’ll preen or cock her head, or flick back her luxuriant red hair and try a smoulder — because, you know, she’s, like, not just red-haired but red hot, a TV presenter, journalist, style commentator and style icon whose website is practically a shrine to herself, full of admiring comments collected from various external sources and self-adoring photos.

Or if she’s in the wacky zone, she might lock eyes with the viewers and throw a knowing little smirk or raise of the eyebrows our way. But with Scanlon, it’s usually not as subtle as that. Usually everything she does on TV she does at ear-splitting volume and warp-speed.

There’s a lot of that class of carry-on in her new series, Angela Scanlon’s Close Encounters, which follows on from her first RTE2 venture, Oi Ginger!, and its follow-up, the roaringly self-absorbed four-parter Full Frontal, whose press pack featured a picture gallery of Scanlon posing (that word again) nude, but with her hands strategically covering her naughty bits.

Stephen Farrelly (Sheamus) and Angela Scanlon
Stephen Farrelly (Sheamus) and Angela Scanlon

In last Tuesday’s episode, Scanlon spent a very long and chronically uninteresting hour (about 45 minutes more than I could stomach, to be honest) in San Jose in the company of Irish pro-wrestling star Sheamus, real name Stephen Farrelly.

Tonight she’s in Edinburgh to talk to comedian Jason Byrne. They should get on a like a house on fire, since neither of them seems to require a pause for breath.

In many ways Scanlon is the soul sister of Maia Dunphy. Both are toweringly self-confident women — although there’s nothing wrong with self-confidence as long as it’s tempered by self-awareness.

Both seem to be able to call the shots at RTE2, which is happy to shove them in viewers’ faces with tiresome regularity.

Streets paved with gold? Maia Dunphy on the Thames as RTE documents her attempt to break London.
Streets paved with gold? Maia Dunphy on the Thames as RTE documents her attempt to break London.

And both specialise in the same kind of lightweight, vacuous, self-absorbed guff where it’s not the subject matter, normally wafer-thin anyway, that’s the most important thing, but the presenter. It’s the ultimate Me generation self-indulgence.

But Scanlon is a relative rookie compared to Dunphy, who ever since What Women Want two years ago has been churning out one interchangeable documentary after another about puddle-deep supposed female obsessions: sex, shopping, beauty, fashion, fame, celebrity and blah, blah, blah.

One of them, Merlot & Me, found her indulging in some furrowed-brow analysis of her own relationship with alcohol.

For anyone who has gone or is going through a genuine problem with alcohol, it all came across as faintly insulting and more than a little foolish.

She was back on screen a few weeks ago with a film centred on pregnancy, her own, naturally, again furrowing her brow over whether her habits were harming her unborn baby.

I would have thought this was a simple one: don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, stuff your face with unhealthy crap or engage in extreme sports and everything should be hunky dory.

Since Dunphy has since given birth to the proverbial bouncing baby, we can probably assume it is.

Arguably, Dunphy’s latest offering, The Truth About Breaking London, crossed the line from being merely annoying and trivial to being annoying and objectionable. This time, the still-pregnant presenter was fretting about whether she could carve out a career in the bustling metropolis.

“Was I tough enough to start over in one of the most competitive cities on Earth?” she wondered. “Was I able for the bruising slog of reinventing myself in a tough town?”

Oh, come off it, woman! A quick glance at your Wikipedia page shows that, when you’re not making fatuous documentaries for RTE2, you live in London with your husband, successful comedian Johnny Vegas.

As my old friend and opposite number at the Irish Independent, John Boland, pointed out in his review

(read it here: Television: London calling - well, for a charmed circle anyway), being married to one of the most popular funnymen in Britain would probably make the transition considerably easier. That sound patronising? Not half as patronising as this disingenuous tripe.

Dunphy talked to some Irish people who’d made the jump. Not, mind you, ordinary Irish people: the graduates, tradespeople and manual workers who’ve had to emigrate to London because they can’t find jobs here or have lost the ones they had.

She confined her investigation to those working in fashion, showbusiness and lifestyle — the Holy Trinity for Dunphy, Scanlon and others living in their exclusive bubble-world.

Whatever topic they’re allegedly about, the thing these programmes always end up about is the Self.

I wish Scanlon and Dunphy would just get over themselves, and RTE2 would get over the pair of them.

Angela Scanlon's Close Encounters, RTE2, 10pm

Read more: Who said wrestling's no laughing matter? 


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