Monday 19 March 2018

Meet the McDonaghs - 'more observational and matter-of-fact than My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'

Meet The McDonaghs
Meet The McDonaghs

Doug Whelan

RTE's current talent singing contest The Voice of Ireland may not have provided any singing careers of note to its contestants, but it has generated plenty of headlines.

One such aspect of the show was the "journey" (to use the parlance of reality TV talent contests) of one Kelly McDonagh Mongan.

Part of Ireland's travelling community, Kelly was heavily pregnant during filming of the show which gave her a quirky back story (not to mention a headache for the show's producers who may have feared/hoped that Kelly might go in to labour during the live show) and left her with a lot of interest from TV production companies.

She eventually was a runner-up on the show and subsequently appeared in the one-off documentary What Kelly Did Next. Exhibiting a shrewd sense of PR that contrasts with her wide-eyed I'm-just-lucky-to-be-here sensibility, Kelly is back on screens this week in Meet the McDonaghs, which follows not only her on her quest to become a successful singer, but her entire extended family.

At first glance, the obvious influence on a programme like this is Channel 4's My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. But with its cheerful voiceover and slightly sarcastic tone, that show can sometimes make for slightly uncomfortable viewing.

Instead, Meet the McDonaghs is more observational and matter-of-fact, focusing in part on Kelly's dream of becoming a successful singer as well as observing the family's ordinary everyday life.

In the latter, Kelly confesses that she feels more nervous singing for her peers in the travelling community than people in the settled community. There's such a focus on how you look that the music takes a back seat.

Of course, our comments about Channel 4's effort notwithstanding, the weddings are a big part of life among travellers, there's no getting away from that.

For producers to ignore it or play it down for hope of being a bit different would be disingenuous. So if that's what you're after, the fake tan, big dresses and unique sincerity of the culture's tendency to get married very young, then that's all in there too.

Also in the first episode is a look into brother Arthur's promise as an amateur boxer. He's won several medals at all-Ireland and international level. At the time of filming he's focused more on coaching rather than competing, leading to interesting footage of him pep-talking and training in the ring.

Meet the McDonaghs: Friday 26, 9.30pm, RTE Two

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