Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Hello Australia!' – Dermot Bannon’s endearing, embarrassing trek Down Under


Superfan: Bannon has taken his search for incredible homes to Sydney
Superfan: Bannon has taken his search for incredible homes to Sydney

John Boland

It was the first instalment of Dermot Bannon's Incredible Homes (RTÉ1), which means it's time to get out the exclamation marks. "Wow!" said Dermot when he entered Judith's house in Sydney. "I love it! Oh my God!"

Judith, Dermot informed us, was an "art collector, philanthropist and billionaire" and she lived with her two dogs in an edifice designed for her by one of Australia's top architects.

Indeed, for Dermot, it was "one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever been". And as for the dinner table that was about a mile long and seated 60 people: "It's stunning!"

Judith laughed nervously, maybe wondering whether she should get a restraining order against this demented Irishman who had invaded her home and wouldn't shut up about the vast staircases and other flamboyant fixtures that only the super-rich can afford.

But then it was on to other Sydney homes and to more gawking and gasping. There was a house built on top of a cliff that was "really, really stunning", and another house that was not only "stunning" but also "amazing" and "incredible" and "takes your breath away".

"This is living, isn't it?" he said of one house - and perhaps that's so if you've all the money in the world and are not fretting over whether you and your family can afford that modest three-bed 30 miles from where you want to be - or even be able to pay next month's rent without ending up in a hotel room provided by social welfare.

Such thoughts, however, were far from Dermot's mind as he drooled over a beachfront Sydney house designed by yet another top Australian architect. "Wow!" he said. "What an amazing space! I'm in love with this space! Magical!"

At the programme's outset, this superfan of bling stood on the balcony of a clifftop house, extended his arms and yelled "Hello, Australia!" like a schoolboy on his first trip abroad. It was almost endearing, though mainly embarrassing. But there's no deterring Dermot, who doesn't do embarrassment and who tomorrow night will be oohing and aahing over billionaire pads in Melbourne.

When introducing Claire Byrne Live (RTÉ1), the host promised an interview in which Alastair Campbell would say that Britain was now "the laughing stock of the world". In the event, he didn't quite say that, though he thought that the British government was "lurching towards some crazy solution" in which the Irish were in danger of "becoming collateral damage".

Claire, though, seemed more preoccupied with the metabolic age test that she had agreed to undertake later in the show. "I've a feeling I'm going to regret this a lot", she said at the outset, clearly mindful of the fact that when Leo Varadkar underwent the test a week earlier for Operation Transformation, our 40-year-old Taoiseach was told he had the metabolic age of a 53-year-old.

As it happened, 43-year-old Claire turned out to have the metabolic age of a 28-year-old. "I'm so relieved," she said. Well, I'm glad that someone was happy - though not viewers left wondering what this stuff was doing on a supposedly serious current affairs show.

Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil (BBC2) focused on the migrant crisis that began with mass drownings off the coast of Italy in 2015 and that made a sham of EU solidarity.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi found few friends in dealing with the crisis, apart from Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and German chancellor Angela Merkel, who would soon go on to create problems for herself through her welcoming of huge numbers of refugees into Germany. This has been an informative, indeed absorbing, series.

Inspector Morse ran for 33 episodes from 1987 to 2000, followed by 33 episodes of Lewis, featuring Kevin Whately as Morse's former sidekick. That was rather colourless, much like its main actor, but Endeavour (Virgin One), which features Morse in his younger police career, is a superior series.

Indeed, I prefer it to the original Inspector Morse, not least because Shaun Evans is a more interesting actor than John Thaw, whom I always thought ponderously self-important and lugubrious. And the characters and situations devised by screenwriter Russell Lewis have been more intriguing, too.

The sixth season began this week with Morse demoted to uniform rustic duties and the arrival of a new boss in DI Ronnie Box (Simon Harrison), a thuggish sexist spiv more used to strong-arm London tactics than quieter Oxfordshire ways.

Happily Morses's old mentor, Fred Thursday, is back, once again splendidly played by Roger Allam, whom I could watch reciting the phone book. And this week's mystery, which concerned the disappearance of two young girls, was satisfyingly played out, with Morse finally cracking the two cases - one of them involving a tragic accident, the other a darker case of child abuse.

This is old-fashioned police drama, somewhat in the manner of A Touch of Frost, which I always thought critically underrated. Indeed, being old-fashioned doesn't have to mean being dull, as Endeavour continues to demonstrate.

Shetland (BBC1) is old-fashioned, too, though with virtues of its own, not least Douglas Henshall's playing of DI Jimmy Perez, a decent man with a real concern for truth and justice. In the current series, he's trying to solve the murder of a Nigerian man who's found dismembered on the islands.

It's an ongoing mystery, not like the stand-alone stories to be encountered in Endeavour, and it's bleaker, too (those windswept landscapes for starters), but it holds the attention.

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