Sunday 20 October 2019

John Boland on TV: Property-porn addicts get a double fix on RTÉ


Property bubble: judges Peter, Hugh and Deirdre on Home of the Year
Property bubble: judges Peter, Hugh and Deirdre on Home of the Year

John Boland

Just in case you're not getting enough property porn in Dermot Bannon's Incredible Homes (RTÉ1, Sunday nights), along comes another season of Home of the Year (RTÉ1, Tuesday nights), in which the owners of 21 domestic dwellings compete to show why their houses are much nicer than yours or mine.

There are eight weeks of this twaddle, with the same three judges as last time around, including Hugh Wallace (a "design legend", according to the breathless voiceover), who threw a hissy fit a few months back on Celebrity Home of the Year when another of the judges failed to marvel at a house that Hugh thought simply adorable.

And here again he was in adoring mode. "Isn't this just perfect!" he exclaimed of a house in south County Dublin. "What a delightful couch!"

As for a revamped cottage in Co Galway. "What a smashing space!" Hugh gasped. "The colours are just sensational!"

Not to be outdone, fellow judge and "renowned interior designer" Deirdre Whelan went "Wow!" about one house and "Wow! This is fantastic!" about another before a consensus was reached that the Galway cottage was the week's winner. Exciting wasn't the word for it, and to think there's 18 more houses to come.

Meanwhile, in the second instalment of Dermot Bannon's Incredible Homes, Ireland's only architect had moved from Sydney to Melbourne, where he roamed around an award-winning house built for a guy who collects Lamborghinis and other vintage cars.

"Wow!" said Dermot as he shimmied down a fireman's pole to the garage, where he excitedly informed us that "each of these cars is worth a million euro". As for the house itself: "It's really, really, really, really beautiful. It is gorgeous! Wow!"

This is what passes for architectural analysis and aesthetic judgment in Dermot's gobsmacked global tour, the viewer learning nothing practical or informative, and thus nothing interesting, about how these temples to the super rich were envisioned, designed or constructed.

But, shure, who needs analysis when there are all those superlatives to be used up?

Given its title, it would have been perverse not to watch 100 Vaginas (Channel 4), though 100 Vulvas would have been anatomically more correct for what Laura Dodsworth's film showed.

Dodsworth, who has previously used breasts and penises as subjects, declared at the outset that she was asking a hundred women "to get naked and talk about their vaginas" as it was "time to see what's really down there and how it defines us".

Throughout the hour, the viewer saw lots of vulvas and vaginas, many in close-up, but the film encompassed a much wider range of concerns than its attention-grabbing title suggested.

The scores of interviewees discussed such diverse topics as pleasure, shame, virginity, oral sex, pornography, pubic hair, periods, masturbation, orgasms and childbirth, and what they had to say was frank and often funny. It was sometimes shocking, too, as in accounts of genital mutilation and of being raped - including an Irish woman's vivid depiction of the trauma she'd suffered at the hands of someone she'd trusted.

I'm not sure what I gained from Dodsworth's film, except perhaps more understanding of, and empathy with, one half of the human race. So it was an enlightening experience, pushing the boundaries of what's taboo but without any trace of titillation.

All the more a pity then that Channel 4 chose to follow it with another instalment of its tackily demeaning dating show, Naked Attraction, in which people choose partners purely on the basis of what their genitals look like.

Created and written by brothers Harry and Jack Williams, The Missing was a BBC1 success when screened a few years back, though I found James Nesbitt's search for his vanished child in France increasingly implausible as it progressed.

Now the same duo have concocted a new mystery drama, Baptiste (BBC1), featuring the ageing French detective from that earlier series - not just ageing but infirm after a brain tumour operation he underwent in the meantime.

"I'm not the man I was," he informed someone at the outset and repeated that confession to anyone who'd listen. And indeed he wasn't as he limpingly pursued a villain through the streets of Amsterdam in this week's opening episode.

As played by Tchéky Karyo, he wasn't very interesting, either, so I transferred my attention to Tom Hollander, shiftily playing a guy who declared himself to be the uncle of a missing young prostitute. So why was there someone's severed head wrapped in a plastic bag in his fridge?

Maybe you're interested in finding out more next week, but I'm not.

More intriguing, though maybe not a lot more, is Traitors (Channel 4), in which, at the end of World War II, American intelligence is worried about Commies infiltrating the British government and hires an idealistic young English woman to work as a mole from within Whitehall.

I haven't a clue whether this has any basis in historical fact, but the period was well evoked in this week's opening episode and Emma Appleton, who was new to me, was spirited in the lead role, with reliable support from Michael Stuhlbarg as her American spy boss and Keeley Hawes as her steely civil service superior.

The Irish Revolution (RTÉ1) came to the end of its impressive three-part run with an account of how the British came to a reluctant deal with Michael Collins, thereby eventually leading to the Troubles and beyond, with Ulster still saying no as a hard Brexit border looms.

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