Saturday 20 April 2019

Norah's at the forefront of do-goodery programmes

Mentor: In her new show ‘Norah’s Traveller Academy’, Norah Casey aims to develop business skills of young Traveller women
Mentor: In her new show ‘Norah’s Traveller Academy’, Norah Casey aims to develop business skills of young Traveller women

John Boland

What with new year resolutions and all that, 'tis the season to be virtuous and so this week's schedules, both here and across the water, were crammed with do-goodery programmes.

For instance, there was the first instalment of Norah's Traveller Academy (RTE2), in which businesswoman and broadcaster Norah Casey takes four women from the Traveller community and mentors them as they seek to further their chosen careers.

Norah has previously told the facts of life to budding entrepreneurs on Dragon's Den, while in another RTE series, has sought to give the kiss of life to ailing companies, all this while hosting a radio show, presiding over a publishing empire, setting up a beauty products range and writing inspirational books. Is there no end to her talents. What next? Norah solves the mysteries of the universe?

Her first protégé in Norah's Traveller Academy was Tracy Joyce, a single mother from Athlone who worked as a reporter on the Voice of the Traveller magazine, for which she received €153 a week from the State. A clearly bright and personable young woman and a great chatterer ("I talk a mile a minute"), Tracey made an immediate impact on Norah, who sought to develop her potential.

In particular, she aimed to develop Tracy's "language skills", which, I trust, involved avoiding the clichés to which Norah herself was prone, such as her pronouncement that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and her frequent resort to such threadbare phrases as "communication breakdown", "top of the league" and "in her element".

Perhaps that's the way they talk in the supposed newspaper of record because Norah wanted Tracy to reach the stage where she could say, "I really want to be up there with those people who are writing for the Irish Times" - the programme's voiceover subsequently declaring it to be "the paper where Tracey and every other young journalist in the country would love to work".

Well, that was telling the rest of us, though Norah had lots more to tell Tracy, especially when Norah herself took over the launch of the revamped and retitled Traveller's Voice and got Tracy to go online, attend a fashion shoot and make a launch-night speech in the Mansion House.

I trust all of this will stand by Tracy, who, anyway, seemed quite capable of standing on her own two capable and lively feet. But whatever the ultimate outcome for Tracy, the series is yet another addition to Norah's ever-growing CV.

Do-goodery also permeated the return of Operation Transformation (RTE1), which was backed up as usual by incessant morning radio chatter from John Murray on how the participants were progressing.

Clearly, this is a popular series, though it does rather exclude those of us who have either no need or no desire (not always the same thing) to have our bodies transformed.

Perhaps we'd be more receptive if the participants, like most of us, were just a bit overweight or moderately unhealthy, but the series - like this week's BBC three-part What's the Right Diet for You? - favours people who are undeniably obese, and thus, it puts itself at a distance from the majority of the population.

In this week's instalment of Donal MacIntyre: Breaking Crime (TV3), the reporter fretted about a "generation at risk" in Dublin's north inner city.

Specifically, he was in the environs of Sheriff Street, where "clearly something isn't working" despite the fact that it was "the most policed area in the State".

Indeed, as soon as he and his crew ventured there, objects were thrown at them by irate locals, causing Donal to protest, "We're entitled to walk down here" before seeking police protection that wasn't forthcoming.

"How has this been allowed to happen?" Donal fumed about the overt drug-dealing and widespread criminality, though in the end he came up with his own answer, which was "about community policing and building relationships on the one hand and hard in-your-face policing on the other". Let me know how that goes, Donal.

Also dabbling in do-goodery were the Brennan brothers who, in the new run of At Your Service (RTE1), were seeking to revitalise a country house riding school in Co Clare. As usual, they were bursting with ideas and I felt secure leaving amiable owner Johnny Hassett in their energetic hands.

I also gave a pass to the first instalment of Danger! Amanda at Work (TV3) in which socialite Amanda Brunker, famous for being famous, opted to "give up the glam" and try her hand at pig farming and various other mucky exercises. Well, as long as it keeps her out of the gossip columns.

I'll reserve final judgment on Charlie (RTE1) until tomorrow night's concluding episode, but the second instalment was even more cartoonish than the first in its gleeful portrayal of skulduggery, spineless hangers-on and avaricious enablers - Gavin O'Connor's Sean Doherty, an almost pantomimish muck savage.

What was missing was any sense of what made Charlie Haughey tick. "Why do we do it?" Aidan Gillen's Charlie mused. "Why do we chase power, cling to power?" But the film never bothered to address the question, let alone seek an answer.

Instead, we got silly stuff about the arcane ritual of eating game birds with Francois Mitterrand on Innishvickilaune and even sillier stuff in which a rancorously bitter parliamentary no-confidence vote ended with a punch-up and with Des O'Malley brandishing a sword.

What's been missing, too, has been any real sense of where Haughey came from and what shaped him, while the exclusion of the arms trial suggests that his undermining of the very institutions and integrity of the State were clearly not considered to be of any real consequence by the makers of the drama.

So will the series remain just good fun?

Email: jboland@independent.ie

 

'Spiral' is as riveting as ever

The Parisian crime drama, Spiral (BBC4), is back for a fifth season and it began last weekend in blisteringly good form.

Long before The Killing and The Bridge, Spiral ('Engrenages' in French) made its mark as an oustanding foreign-language thriller and it has retained its power to rivet, with Caroline Proust's main cop, Laure, even more dishevelled than heretofore, and with Audrey Fleurot's glamorous lawyer, Josephine, just as duplicitous.

You really do believe in these characters and in their conniving, rule-bending colleagues, while this season's dual plotlines (the murder of a young woman and her daughter and the road death of a policeman) were absorbingly sketched in.

And behind all the violent rough and tumble, there's a humanity to the series that you don't always encounter in its Nordic rivals.

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