Tuesday 20 August 2019

Millennials stuck at home... and a generation blasé about sex

Bunking up: This Crowded House on RTÉ2 with Brendan Courtney and the Kennedy family in Palmerstown
Bunking up: This Crowded House on RTÉ2 with Brendan Courtney and the Kennedy family in Palmerstown

John Boland

Haven't I seen this before? That was my reaction to Generation What? (RTÉ2) and indeed I'd seen it many times before, even if I can't recall the titles of its previous TV incarnations.

The format was certainly the same: take a group of young people, ask them about their attitudes to sex, equality, religion, politics and whatever you're having yourself, and then conduct an earnest panel discussion about what they've been telling you.

This time around, the findings came courtesy of an online survey in which 18 to 34-year-olds from 14 European countries answered 149 questions, 33,000 of these millennial respondents being Irish.

Mercifully, we only got to meet some of them, or else the series, which ends next week, would have stretched into the next millennium, but what was striking was that most of them were of the same mind about nearly everything.

That may have been because, as presenter Eoghan McDermott proudly informed us, "this is the most open generation the State has ever seen", and certainly they were relaxed when it came to sex, the topic with which the programme inevitably opened.

It seems 55pc confessed to having had sex in a public place, while most were equally blasé about sex with strangers and with more than one person at a time. In the ensuing panel discussion, a priest confessed himself shocked at these findings and was just as dismayed at withering attitudes towards religion (80pc of those surveyed declaring themselves happy to have no religious beliefs), but really there was nothing here that wasn't entirely predictable to the rest of us.

Brendan Courtney, who fronted the affectingly personal documentary We Need to Talk About Dad earlier in the year, is now presenting This Crowded House (RTÉ2), in which he seeks to assist young people who, for financial reasons, can't escape the family home.

This predicament, he told us, currently affects almost 25pc of millennial adults, and in this opening instalment he sought to help two brothers reduced to bunk beds in their parents' small Palmerstown cottage and a student enduring similarly cramped conditions with her Latvian boyfriend in the family home in Clondalkin.

Their plight was well conveyed but the tone was generally upbeat in a Brendan-will-fix-it kind of way as help was sought from property experts and financial advisers. In the end, the brothers rented a little house on Cork Street that they could just about afford, while the parents of the student agreed to a granny flat extension to their house. And in the process, the viewer learned some things about the prohibitively expensive property market out there.

All-Ireland Day: The Hurling Final (RTÉ1) was an engaging film, directed by Ronan O'Donoghue, which went behind the scenes of last September's epic clash between Galway and Waterford. We met match commentator Marty Morrissey as he visited his widowed mother in her Clare home and then prepared for the match. "A rare privilege," he said of his broadcasting duties, while first-time All-Ireland referee Fergal Horgan described his elevation as "the pinnacle of my career" - though that didn't stop him berating the players for various offences once the game had begun, as we heard via his on-pitch mike.

Along the way we also heard from match photographer James Crombie, local radio commentator Kieran O'Connor, hurley maker Frank Murphy, event controller Elaine Casey and even wildlife expert Barry Nolan, who was tasked with scaring off pigeons by means of a hawk in his gloved hand.

As the final episode of Acceptable Risk (RTÉ1) came to a close, Sarah stood in a cemetery and told her sister: "I need to get on with my life now." So do I, Sarah, having wasted six hours of it on this tosh. In the end, there wasn't even a comeuppance for the baddies - a news bulletin simply telling us that the villainous Dr Hoffman's plane had crashed at sea. Where was the fun in that?

And don't get me going on the late plot reveal about dead women and children in a former home for unwed mothers - this was dragged in presumably to give the series some aura of topicality, but entirely specious in its cack-handed attempt at social relevance.

As for the acting, Elaine Cassidy as Sarah ran the whole gamut of emotions from very, very cross to absolutely furious, while some of the supporting players were woeful, though given the dire script they had to deliver, it would be unkind to name them. God knows what this Irish-Canadian production cost, but isn't it about time RTÉ stopped getting involved in dramas for which it clearly has no talent?

There was talent and more in last season's Stranger Things (Netflix), a spooky 1980s-set series that had the unusual benefit of coming out of the blue, its success depending on the immediate enthusiasm of viewers rather than on critical plaudits.

That surprise element isn't possible now and the second season comes freighted with high expectations. You can binge-watch it all, which is not my way of doing things, though from the couple of episodes I've so far seen, it's looking pretty good, even if the initial thrill is gone.

Fab Vinny (RTÉ1) was a fond tribute to former RTÉ2 pop presenter Vincent Hanley, who died of an Aids-related illness 30 years ago. Former colleagues Conor McAnally and Bill Hughes had eloquent reminiscences, the latter recalling Manhattan's West Village in the mid-80s as seeming "like an episode of The Walking Dead".

As for the sexually free Ireland of today that Hanley never got to know, "he'd think he was in the land of Oz", Hughes said.

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