Sunday 20 October 2019

John Boland: Diversity fashion has charm in new RTÉ show The Fitting Room

 

Fashion police: Paddy Smyth, Zoe Carol, Ciara O'Doherty and Ruedi Maguire in The Fitting Room
Fashion police: Paddy Smyth, Zoe Carol, Ciara O'Doherty and Ruedi Maguire in The Fitting Room

John Boland

The Fitting Room (RTÉ1) is a new fashion series that's determined to stand apart from other such programmes, and this week's quirky opening instalment mostly succeeded in its aims.

Presenter Paddy Smyth was born with cerebral palsy ("and I'm gay," he added), while two of the volunteers for a fashion makeover had their own distinct differences - 22-year-old javelin and discus champion Hayley from Waterford was born with dwarfism, while 31-year-old Jenna from Sligo has been confined to a wheelchair since a dive into the shallow end of a swimming pool four years ago left her paralysed from the chest down.

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The third volunteer, 28-year-old Robert from Cork merely suffered from "terrible taste", according to the narrator, along with a propensity to rip his trousers every time he bent over.

They made for an engaging trio, and equally engaging were clothes designers Zoe and Ruedi, and stylist Ciara, who were tasked with coming up with outfits for them. To be honest, I learned little about the art of fashion, but I felt I'd got to know something both about the upbeat volunteers and their cheerful advisers.

I didn't learn much, though, from Moving Statues: The Summer of 1985 (RTÉ1), which resembled an extended edition of Reeling in the Years, with reminders of the Troubles, the Air India crash, the divorce referendum, Springsteen at Slane and Geldof in his prime.

But the main focus was on the devotional hysteria that swept the country for a few giddy months as religious statues were supposedly seen to move in diverse grottos and churches throughout the land.

Ballinspittle in Co Cork immediately became the most famous of these, hailed as a miracle by believers, thousands of whom turned up each evening in the hope that the Virgin Mary would put on a show for them.

People who were there at the time were interviewed 34 years later, and for a while, the film was interesting, but there's only so much you can say about moving statues - and by the midway point, at least one viewer's sense of engagement was exhausted.

In The Great House Revival (RTÉ1), Belfast couple Garry and Anne Wilson had bought a 16th-century, five-storey tower outside Cobh in Co Cork, but we weren't told how much they paid for it. Nor were we told what they did for a living in England for the last 35 years, which might have helped to explain how they could afford to spend €5m on turning the decrepit tower into a swish contemporary family home.

But then basic facts seemed a secondary consideration for "design legend" Hugh Wallace, who has just finished up as a judge on Home of the Year and who was so busy oohing and aahing over the tower and its new owners that he forgot to ask fundamental questions.

At the very end, he did refer to the "mind-boggling expense" of the renovation, but this got smothered by all the superlatives he deployed: "beautiful" and "fantastic" and "stunning" and "magnificent" and "amazing" and "wonderful" and "extraordinary" being merely some of them. Who needs to pay a PR guy when you've got Hugh around?

The Borrowers (RTÉ1) is a half-hour series about credit unions and in this week's first instalment we met 73-year-old Thomas in Tralee, who needed a €2,000 loan for cataract surgery in Belfast. The HSE had told him he'd have to wait for a year, but he needed it done now. In the same credit union office, musician Michael wanted €3,000 so that he could strut his guitar in Nashville and Memphis, while in Mullingar, son Gary needed €9,000 to pay off dad Eugene for a car.

They were all amiable people and so were the loan officers, but it made for thin stuff, not improved by Pauline McLynn's determinedly chirpy voiceover.

Back to Life (BBC1) is currently occupying the Monday night slot vacated by the peerless Fleabag, yet while it's being billed as a "comedy drama", there was nothing obviously comic about this week's opening episode.

Still, the scenario is intriguing, with Daisy Haggard as Miri, back with her elderly parents in her coastal town after 18 years in prison for a violent crime that's so far unspecified but that has led a neighbour to daub 'Psycho Bitch' on the family's garden fence.

Confronted by an unfamiliar and sometimes frightening world, Miri spent most of the half-hour in denial about her situation but conveying the loneliness and strangeness of it all, too. And Haggard, who co-wrote the script with Laura Solon, is affecting in the central role.

If it's conventional comedy you want, Not Going Out (BBC1) is back for its 10th season. I thought this sitcom much funnier when Lee and Lucy were wary flatmates rather than battling parents, but in this week's instalment, the quick-fire gags came so fast that I couldn't help chortling at quite a few of them.

Trust Me (BBC1) is a new thriller, with paralysed army corporal Jamie lying helplessly in his Glasgow hospital bed while patients are dying all round him. Is one of the doctors a serial killer? Or one of the nurses? Or dodgy hospital boss John Hannah? Or is Jamie just imagining it all? I'll certainly give it another week at least.

Meanwhile, something called Game of Thrones has started its final season on Sky Atlantic. I gather that it has quite a few devotees, though I'm afraid I gave up on comics when I got through adolescence. But, shure, to each his own.

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