Saturday 19 October 2019

John Boland's week in TV: 'Instead of axing Lyric FM, why not get rid of RTÉ2?'

Television

Wedding planning: Tara and Bruce with school sweethearts Alice and Chris (centre) on My Big Day: Home or Away
Wedding planning: Tara and Bruce with school sweethearts Alice and Chris (centre) on My Big Day: Home or Away

John Boland

Apparently the future of Lyric FM is "being considered" - and this despite the insistence of former RTÉ radio boss Helen Shaw that it's run on "a tiny, tiny budget" and despite the fact that it's been one of our national broadcaster's modest glories over the last 20 years. Indeed, for my money, Ellen Cranitch's superb late-night weekend show is alone worth the licence fee.

RTÉ, though, prefers to waste its money on outlandish salaries to favoured "star" performers and on making endless lifestyle series that no one in their right minds would want to watch.

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Take this week's latest offering, Goodbye House (RTÉ1), which got a one-off airing two years ago and was so pointless it should have been binned there and then. But no, it's now being revived for a weekly series in which family and friends compete to find a suitable house for someone who wishes to downsize.

This week's opener featured 65-year-old Mayo widow Anne, who, for reasons that remained obscure, wanted to move from the attractive Swinford cottage in which she and her late husband had lived for almost 20 years.

So she enlisted three women friends to come up with three alternatives. One was a less attractive house down the road, one in the Galway area where she'd previously lived and the third an apartment in the Algarve - this last necessitating a trip to Portugal with her friend, along with a camera crew.

In the end, she plumped for the house down the road, though a final caption told us she has stalled on this, "until she receives a firm offer on her own home". And that was that.

So what on earth was the programme about? The viewer had assumed that she had sought the advice of friends because she was otherwise alone, though towards the close we were told that she had "family" and we saw some family members in the background, though it wasn't explained why they hadn't participated in her bid to downsize.

And in the end, we learned little about Anne, except that she seemed a nice person and her friends seemed nice, too, though the attempts at badinage seemed stilted and not really of any interest to the viewer.

And the same can be said of My Big Day: Home or Away (RTÉ2), in which couples planning their nuptials must decide between having the event in Ireland or in a more exotic location - wedding planner Tara proposing the former and rival wedding planner Bruce arguing for the latter.

The viewer, meanwhile, couldn't care less, though, for reasons best known to RTÉ, the series is back for another season. This week Tara wanted Cahir couple Chris and Alice to have the wedding in Mount Juliet, while Bruce whisked them off to Malta, which meant flights, hotels and camera crews abroad. Who's paying for this, and to what end?

So here's an idea: instead of axing Lyric FM, why not get rid of RTÉ2, home of mostly wretched sitcoms, dramas already seen elsewhere and reruns of Home and Away, Top Gear and Lords and Ladles.

Still, maybe it's worth saving for Mr Mercedes, which continues to enthral, and there's no denying that its sports coverage can be excellent, too, though I thought coverage of Ireland's opening match in Rugby World Cup 2019 was a good deal livelier on eir than on RTÉ's second channel.

I found Tommy Bowe to be a more congenial and insightful host than RTÉ's Daire O'Brien, while panellists Peter Stringer, Gordon D'Arcy and Jerry Flannery had more interesting things to say than the rather dour trio of Jamie Heaslip, Stephen Ferris and Eddie O'Sullivan. Eir also found room in its All Blacks/Springboks coverage for a woman panellist, Louise Galvin.

Criminal (Netflix) is an ambitious 12-part drama series of standalone stories - three from the UK, three French, three Spanish and three German, all of them conducted in their native languages.

The basic set-up, as in the most riveting parts of Line of Duty, involves an interrogation room, where in the UK strand (the only one I've seen so far) we encounter a doctor suspected of raping and murdering his 14-year-old stepdaughter; a woman believed to have poisoned her sister's abusive boyfriend; and a lorry driver thought to have smuggled refugees into ­England before abandoning them inside his vehicle.

This last one is outstanding, with Youssef Kerkour very affecting as the hapless driver and Mark Stanley just as fine as his troubled inquisitor. And David Tennant is just as potent as the doctor in the opening story, revealing in gestures and tics his true nature.

Indeed, you have to be alert to nuance and detail while watching these 45-minute dramas, and I look forward to catching up with the rest of them.

In this week's Room to Improve (RTÉ1), Dermot Bannon declared his passion for pebble dash. "I love the look of it," he said. In fact, he loved it so much that he put a wall of it inside the front room of Yvonne and Adrian's Rathfarnham house.

Yvonne, though, had a few other quibbles with Ireland's only architect, leading him to sigh: "You'll always come up against people who have a certain way that they'd like their home to look". I know, Dermot, people can be so contrary.

Adrian, for his part, had declared that his budget for Dermot's revamp was €280,000, "and that's it!" In the end, after the usual disagreements, it all came to €390,000, but that's the price you pay for genius. "I mean, wow!" Adrian said. "I'm blown away!"

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