Tuesday 23 April 2019

Celebrity Globetrotters - clueless fame-seekers find all the world’s a stage in Morocco


Charming: David Norris doing his best to combat his group's cultural ignorance in Celebrity Globetrotters
Charming: David Norris doing his best to combat his group's cultural ignorance in Celebrity Globetrotters

John Boland

In the second episode of Daniel and Majella's USA Road Trip (RTÉ1), Majella wondered if Daniel's "dipstick" was as long as that of an American guy who was helping them get rid of their camper van's sewage. Oh, don't ask.

And don't ask, either, about the rationale behind Celebrity Globetrotters (RTÉ1), in which David Norris, Dana and four other "celebrities" are spending a week in Morocco, most of them sniggering at local ways.

This is a Francis Brennan road trip without Francis Brennan (for which some thanks) but with as little point to it. The gimmick here is that each of the supposed celebs get to be tour guide for a day during the six-week series, but given that most of them blithely acknowledged in the opening instalment that they knew nothing about Morocco, how's that going to work?

The first episode was certainly enough for me, as comedian Alison Spittle, Olympic athlete David Gillick and singer Derek Burke sneered at the Yves Saint Laurent garden in Marrakesh to which David Norris had taken them and then proceeded to deface its plants before being reprimanded by a local guide.

After that it was off to mosques and carpet shops and snake charmers, with Norris doing his valiant but vain best to combat the group's general cultural ignorance - while the viewer wondered what on earth these people were doing together. What bonded them, of course, was their shared need to get their mugs on television at all costs, though the real cost is to the taxpayer, who's ultimately footing the bill for this nonsense.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, Daniel and Majella were heroically enduring the adoration of their stateside fans. "They were just like they were on TV," said awestruck Aaron, the guy who'd cleaned up their sewage problem. As for Lois, whom Daniel introduced as a long-time acolyte, it was "one of those big moments in your life - to have them here".

Where "here" was, though, remained unclear. Yes, we were travelling from Chicago to North Dakota, where Daniel was due to give a concert, but nowhere in the first two episodes was there any mention of the fact that we were in Trump's America - indeed no mention at all of Trump or politics. That might be too edgy for a couple who reserve their edginess to contrived banter about themselves.

And programmes didn't get much better elsewhere during the week. I watched the first instalment of The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (Netflix), but didn't feel like continuing with the next seven episodes - especially when those who've done so reliably inform me that the series reveals nothing new.

What's the point then in rehashing the distressing story of the three-year-old who vanished from the Algarve holiday complex in which the family was staying almost 12 years ago? And the fact that neither Kate nor Gerry McCann nor any of their friends nor investigating associates wished to take part in the series really says it all.

And the trumpeted new crime series, Proven Innocent (Universal), turned out to be a complete dud, despite the formidable presence of Kelsey Grammer, reprising his nasty-guy turn from that underrated and short-lived series Boss.

Here he plays a prosecutor who delights in convicting people by fair means or foul, but the script is cliché-ridden and bombastic, and the lead human rights attorney is so annoyingly played by Rachelle Lefevre that her supposed feistiness just comes across as smart-arsed smugness.

Our Six Nations rugby bid may have come to a lamentable end, but praise is warranted for the Virgin Media coverage - anchorman Joe Molloy and pundits Shane Horgan, Matt Williams and Shane Jennings so engrossing you'd hardly recall that RTÉ2's Tom McGurk, George Hook and Brent Pope once ruled this particular sporting roost.

In comedy, Derry Girls (Channel 4) continued on its uneven way with a few good gags, but Fleabag (BBC1) once more showed its class, with a terrific cameo from Kristin Scott Thomas as an award-winning businesswoman who'd seen it all, and a final scene in which Andrew Scott's sublimely engaging priest explained to Fleabag why he wouldn't have sex with her. And Sian Clifford was yet again brilliant as her perpetually uptight sister.

An hour earlier, This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1), which has mostly been a disappointing reminder of former Partridge glories, had a great last scene in which an Irish lookalike of Alan hijacked the studio interview with an impromptu rendition of 'The Men Behind the Wire' and other IRA anthems.

On a more serious, indeed more sinister, note, the Storyville documentary, The Internet's Dirtiest Secrets (BBC4), revealed the outsourced work undertaken by anonymous "moderators", mainly in the Philippines, to clean up loathsome material posted on Facebook, YouTube and other web outlets.

Each of these badly paid operatives have to look at 25,000 images a day featuring child abuse, incitements to violence and whatever might displease fascist states, and then decide for themselves whether to ignore or delete them. They do this so that the global tech companies don't have to get directly involved and so that Mark Zuckerberg and his billionaire peers can continue to offer vacuous platitudes about what they've unleashed on the world.

No time at all, alas, for more than a mention of Mark Noonan's outstanding documentary, Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect (RTÉ1), made two years ago but screened this week to mark the recent death of the visionary Irishman who found fame in America.

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