Tuesday 22 May 2018

Clearly you can't improve on RTÉ's superlative homes of the year

Wow factor: Home of the Year judges Deirdre Whelan, Patrick Bradley and Hugh Wallace. Photo: Ruth Medjber
Wow factor: Home of the Year judges Deirdre Whelan, Patrick Bradley and Hugh Wallace. Photo: Ruth Medjber

John Boland

Far from being dead, the Celtic Tiger is alive and well and living in Fermoy. That's where Susie and Dave reside and on Room to Improve (RTÉ1) they told architect Dermot Bannon they had set aside €450,000 for the revamping of their 19th century house.

This involved the addition of a gym, a beauty and massage room, an indoor swimming pool, a sauna and a granny flat, and Dermot estimated that it would all cost in the region of €650,000, but what's an extra €200,000 when you've embarked on what Dermot deemed to be "a journey of discovery". Indeed, he thought it "an incredible privilege to meet clients like that". I bet he did.

And two nights later, as if the recession had never happened and thousands of house owners weren't in dire straits, there was a new season of Home of the Year (RTÉ1), which really should be titled No Room to Improve because all of the competing properties are simply wonderful. But don't take my word for it, just listen to the judges.

"What a great kitchen!" exclaimed 'design legend' Hugh Wallace, whose command of superlatives didn't stop there. "Wow, look at this!" he raved about another house, while the countertop in the kitchen of yet another was "fantastic" and its bathroom was both "spectacular" and "astonishing". Indeed, so spectacular was this bathroom that fellow judge Deirdre Whelan was rendered almost speechless. "Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow" was all she could manage before finally declaring "I honestly thought I'd died and gone to heaven".

For myself, I honestly thought I was going to throw up at all this fawning over beds and chairs and countertops and flagstones. And I was left wondering about the mindsets of the contestants (21 throughout the series), all of whom clearly believe they live in the greatest house in Ireland and want the rest of us, who are untouched by such certainties about our own homes (if, indeed, we have a home), to know about it.

Meanwhile, Young Sheldon (E4) is a spin-off from the ubiquitous The Big Bang Theory, which has always been smart and clever without actually being very funny. As played by Jim Parsons, the autistic know-all Sheldon Cooper remains its best character, and Parsons provides the voiceover here as he recalls his younger life in Hicksville, Texas.

Again it's smart and lively without being terribly amusing and I was mainly intrigued by Zoe Perry, who plays Sheldon's religious zealot mother and who seemed oddly familiar. That, I learned, is because Perry is the daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who's also the mother in The Big Bang Theory and whose acting career is having something of a renaissance ­- she was great all those years ago in Roseanne and now she's terrific once more as Saoirse Ronan's mother in Lady Bird.

Strike: Career of Evil (BBC1) sees the welcome return of dishevelled one-legged detective Cormoran Strike and his engaging sidekick Robin in the third adaptation taken from the thriller series written by JK Rowling under the pen name Robert Galbraith. Ending tomorrow night, this two-parter has a grisly plot, but the secret to its success is the winning chemistry between Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger in a will-they-won't-they relationship that I hope remains teasingly unresolved, even if she's finally ditched her dreary fiancé.

Rowling is currently writing a fourth Strike mystery and I hope it makes it to the small screen without too much delay.

I'll be glad, though, to see the back of Collateral (BBC2), which has been far too sententious for its own good. Lest we mistook it for just another thriller, it's been full of the kind of state-of-the-nation speechifying that has marred some other of scriptwriter David Hare's dramas, so that even the striking performances by Carey Mulligan, Billie Piper and John Simm haven't compensated for its heavy-handedness.

Simm is also one of the two central players in Trauma (TV3), written by Mike Bartlett, who was also the man behind Doctor Foster, which went quite bonkers in its recent second series.

Maybe this three-parter will go bonkers, too, but this week's first episode certainly held the attention with trauma surgeon Adrian Lester performing an emergency operation on Simm's teenage son, who'd just been stabbed after a night out. "He couldn't be in a better place", the suave Lester had assured Simm, but then the boy died on the operating table and Simm began to wonder about the surgeon's shifty reactions in delivering the dreadful news.

Psychological mind games and obsessive suspicions are Bartlett's stock-in-trade, but one hopes that this time round he'll resolve the story less daftly than in Doctor Foster.

Daft, though, is the word for Carrie's behaviour in the latest season of Homeland (RTÉ2). Granted she's always been a headbanger but at least in the past there was the CIA to exert some kind of control over her. Here she's unemployed, leeching off her sister and running up ruinous hotel bills as she embarks on a one-woman crusade against evil US president Elizabeth Keane.

All credit, though, to the scriptwriters who last season were clearly convinced that Hillary Clinton would win the US election and thus came up with a fictional woman president. So they've cleverly reimagined the character as a female Trump, with all the fascistic tendencies, hatreds and paranoia of the real-life White House incumbent.

This lends the new season an unsettling topical chill, especially with the icy presence of Linus Roach as the president's Machiavellian chief of staff, a man seemingly capable of anything. As is Carrie, who in last week's episode beat a blackmailer half to death. You don't mess with Carrie.

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