Saturday 14 December 2019

Reviews: Girl on the Undercard; Posh People: Inside Tatler; Ireland, What Next? and Remember Me

Ghost story: Michael Palin as an eccentric pensioner in the BBC’s Remember Me
Ghost story: Michael Palin as an eccentric pensioner in the BBC’s Remember Me

John Boland

In the week of Katie Taylor's latest triumph, Kim Bartley's film, Girl on the Undercard (RTE2), was an absorbing profile of an Irish woman boxer who, in Taylor's words, "paved the way for the likes of us".

Ten years ago, Bartley made the award-winning The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, an on-the-spot documentary about a failed coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and in its own way her latest film, orginally made for Setanta Sports, was just as vivid and engrossing.

For me it was also an eye-opener, given that in my ignorance I knew nothing about Louth-born Deirdre Gogarty, who had decided as a teenager in the 1980s that she wanted to be a boxer, discovered that Irish laws didn't permit her to pursue a boxing career in this country and decamped to London and then Louisiana before ending up as world featherweight champion in 1997.

The film, it has to be said, was short on personal details. We learned next to nothing about Gogarty's seemingly middle-class family, and so a fleeting shot of its elder female members dressed as if for a garden party was tantalising rather than informative. And it took a google search for me to discover that Gogarty, who's now 45, got married in 2012 and that her memoir, My Call to the Ring, was published in the same year.

But the heart of the documentary, largely filmed in the Louisiana where she's been based for two decades, conveyed much about her commitment to a sport that first enthralled her when she was still back home in Louth and witnessed on the family television Barry McGuigan winning his world title.

She was "totally captivated", she recalled, and she immediately vowed to make her name as a boxer, even though she came from "a very proper family" that was "trying to teach me to be more feminine".

That was the attitude, too, of John McCormack, head coach of Dublin's renowned St Saviour's boxing club, when she turned up at the club as a teenager. "We don't take girls", he recalled telling her. "Girls don't box. Girls are pretty". Yet she convinced him to take her on, with his brother Pat as her coach.

But with no allowable Irish outlet for her skills, she ended up in London and then Lafayette in Louisiana, where she was coached by Beau Williford, a former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, and she found fame when he got her a warm-up bout at the 1996 Las Vegas world title fight between Mike Tyson and Frank Bruno.

So punishingly intense was this fight with the fearsome Christy Martin that, in Williford's reckoning, "it was the equivalent of the Thrilla in Manila" and changed forever the profile of women's boxing. "We knocked down the doors that night", Christy Martin agreed. And now Gogarty works alongside Williford in coaching teenage schoolgirls to box.

Bartley's film conveyed a real sense of what this remarkable fighter accomplished, while the woman herself was strikingly impressive, though with her Louisiana drawl you'd never guess she was Irish.

"She was a huge influence on my career", Katie Taylor said towards the end, while Gogarty felt, somewhat wistfully, that Taylor's Olympic triumph "was a victory for me as well". And this notable film persuaded us that such was true.

Meanwhile over on BBC2, Posh People: Inside Tatler was trying to persuade us that an hour in the company of Hooray Henrys and Snobby Samanthas was time well spent - magazine editor Kate Reardon insisting that "people love looking at beautiful people in beautiful clothes having a great time."

Well, the monthly's 160,000 subscribers clearly do, anyway, though I derived a greater time from an amusing London Times article this week in which Giles Coren, who spent a year working for Tatler, assured me that "posh girls are filthy".

Alas, there was no filth to be encountered in this first of a three-parter, where RHA exhibitions and side-saddle competitions were dutifully covered and where the journalistic "experts in the world of privilege" bore such names as Gavanndra Hodge, Luciana Bellini and the Marchioness of Milford Haven. That was a funny as it got.

With George Hook, Richard Curran and David McWilliams seemingly on state-of-the-nation sabbatical, it was left to Matt Cooper to pose the question Ireland, What Next? (TV3), this week focusing on the current housing crisis.

To be honest, a lot of the financial talk went right over my head, though I was intrigued when - wondering if Germany could provide us with any answers" - he visited Frankfurt and ended up convinced that the Germans were currently "behaving like we did a decade ago". Oh, dear.

Moving from ghost estates to actual ghosts, Remember Me (BBC1) is a three-part chiller that features Michael Palin as a weird old geezer who wangles his way into a rural Yorkshire care home just before his visiting social worker falls to her death from the bedroom window.

Did he push her? Amazingly, no one thought of asking that question, which rather diminished my faith in this drama. Nor was I convinced when young care-home worker Hanna (lovely playing from Jodie Comer) elects to visit his former abode in the dark of night when all the electricity is turned off and she has to use a torch. Oh, come on.

Four weeks into its eight-week run, The Missing (BBC1) still commands interest, largely because of James Nesbitt's intense portrayal of the anguished and angry father in search of his vanished son. But I've become baffled by one of the main storylines, or maybe I went to make a cup of tea at a crucial moment.

The Fall (RTE1/BBC2), meanwhile, is testing my patience. Now that the police know the psycho's identity, why aren't they quizzing his wife, daughter and friends? And is cop Stella getting turned on by his sinister intrusion into her life? Say it isn't so.

As for Homeland (RTE2/Channel 4), Carrie has become so bonkers that no intelligence agency in the world would employ her. Still, the series does know how to ratchet up the tension.


Life's a bitch when it's not funny

When is a comedy sketch show not a comedy sketch show?

When you don't get even a giggle from it.

Psychobitches premiered on Sky Arts 1 last year and now it's back with the exact same format - Rebecca Front as a psychiatrist interviewing various famous women about their lives, beliefs and foibles.

And, I'm afraid, with the same laugh-free problem, too.

So we got Tammy Wynette spelling everything out in the manner of her D-I-V-O-R-C-E song, the Queen Mother as a working-class old slag bickering with Princess Margaret in drag, Margaret Thatcher being Margaret Thatcher.

And the Mitford sisters as a flapper vocal trio warbling about their misspent lives.

The performers included such proven talents as Sheridan Smith and Kathy Burke but as they weren't given anything remotely funny to say, I just sat there stone-faced.

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