Sunday 17 November 2019

Dr Eva frets over food and fitness while Dr Foster goes bonkers

Back to the finger-wagging: Dr Eva Orsmond in Ireland's Health Divide
Back to the finger-wagging: Dr Eva Orsmond in Ireland's Health Divide

John Boland

If you're to believe RTÉ, Dermot Bannon is the only architect in Ireland and Eva Orsmond is the nation's sole health expert.

Indeed, our national broadcaster is so enamoured of the steely Finnish medic that she's appeared on everything from Operation Transformation to Off the Rails, The Big Bite to Meet the Family, The Ray D'Arcy Show to The Restaurant and Claire Byrne Live to the Late Late Show.

And let's not forget her stint on last winter's Dancing with the Stars, though on that show, her aspirations as a devil-may-care hoofer ended early, the voting public having shown itself resistant to her strenuous attempts at charm.

Which may be the reason why, in fronting Ireland's Health Divide (RTÉ1) on Monday night, she reverted to fretting and finger-wagging mode. Even when she confessed herself "humbled" by a single mother's struggle in Limerick to feed seven children on a social welfare stipend and wondered whether her questions had been "a bit cruel", you felt that what she really wanted to ask was why on earth, in these circumstances, the woman had seven children anyway. Or maybe that was just me.

The programme, in fact, told me little that I didn't already know (didn't Philip Boucher-Hayes cover much the same subject a couple of years back?) and that certainly shouldn't have come as a surprise to someone who runs obesity clinics in Dublin and Galway.

Yet she spoke of the high incidence of smoking and the huge consumption of processed foods among the disadvantaged as if these were newly revealed truths rather than well-known facts. "What a huge difference it can make where you live", she mused. Well, yes.

From Moyross she took herself to "stunning" Glasthule and to a middle-class school where fizzy drinks are barred, along with juices and other unhealthy "treats". This met with her approval, though she found it a "shocking contrast" to what she'd encountered in Limerick. Shocking indeed, though it shouldn't have shocked a health professional.

"I'm beginning to see the close relationship between social position and the health choices you make", she said towards the end. Beginning? I trust that was just a rhetorical flourish.

Meanwhile, Celebrity Operation Transformation (RTÉ1) has returned for another season, with five new volunteers hoping to shed some poundage and live a healthier life. Despite the show's title, I hadn't heard of any of them (must get out more), though some of their backstories were interesting.

Indeed, the account of how young singer Kayleigh Cullinan (who weighed in at 20st 11lbs) was bullied at school and was then violently assaulted by a gang of girls was so awful that it went against the upbeat grain of the show and deserved a programme of its own. I just hope the perpetrators were caught and dealt with, though that went unmentioned.

Having departed this series a couple of years ago, Dr Eva wasn't around to put the frighteners up the contestants, but a couple of other fitness gurus seemed more than willing to continue her stern mission, and perhaps make a name for themselves while they're at it. I'll leave them to it.

Top of the Lake lost the plot entirely in its recent second outing on Channel 4 and the same is already happening to Doctor Foster (BBC1), though, mind you, the first season of this suburban psychodrama had been bonkers anyway.

You may recall that Dr Gemma (Suranne Jones) had played awful tricks on adulterous husband Simon and sent him packing from their leafy estate. Well, now it's two years later and he's back with his new trophy wife and, what do you know, doesn't Gemma turn up uninvited to his house-warming party accompanied by her date, who just happens to be her son's teacher.

The problem here is that, although Simon is a passive-aggressive creep with an unpleasant agenda, Gemma is no more likeable. Indeed, she seems positively unhinged as she taunts her ex-hubby with her sexuality and starts assembling poisonous syringes in her back garden.

Clearly this is going to get nasty over the next four episodes, and undoubtedly dafter, too, but if wildly extravagant melodrama is your thing, you'll probably love it.

Or you might opt for Tin Star (Sky Atlantic) in which ex-London cop Jim Worth, who has alcohol and violence issues, takes his wife and two children to a small town in the Canadian Rockies, where he has been appointed chief of police.

Does that sound likely? Maybe no more unlikely than the casting of Tim Roth, an actor who never seems quite at home in any role and who here has to deal with an evil oil company and the dodgy migrant workers it brings in.

I've only watched the first episode and so can't say how it might develop, but it's obvious that Jim/Tim will have to get his act together if he's to cope with all the baddies who've come to town. High Noon in the Rockies, if you like. Watch out for Genevieve O'Reilly, an Irish actress of whom I hadn't heard and who's strikingly good as Jim's wife.

On BBC2, though, they're still obsessed with Princess Di's death and this week they came up with Diana and I, a drama in which four fictional characters dealt with the news of her passing.

Flower seller Mary (Tamsin Greig) saw it as a way of cashing in, ambitious young journalist Michael was honeymooning in Paris when the crash happened, troubled Jack was mourning the death of his mother, and Muslim wife Yasmin was being bullied by her boorish husband.

The acting was good, but I didn't get the point of it.

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