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St Patrick's Day TV - 'If this is the best Irish TV can do in 2015, we deserve to be stereotyped'

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John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald as chaperone, and Maureen O'Hara, at the beginning of the courting in The Quiet Man, 1952.

John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald as chaperone, and Maureen O'Hara, at the beginning of the courting in The Quiet Man, 1952.

John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald as chaperone, and Maureen O'Hara, at the beginning of the courting in The Quiet Man, 1952.

How was St Patrick’s Day for you? Did you go out and watch the Dublin parade – or whichever one was happening nearest to you – and soak up the festive atmosphere, or did you spend the day in the pub, soaking up the many drinks you’d had with whatever food was on the menu – most probably coddle.

On the other hand, perhaps you just stayed home and watched television. If you did, may the blessings of St Patrick be upon you.

Television on St Patrick’s Day, at least the kind pumped out by the domestic channels, is usually the best reason for not watching television on St Patrick’s Day.

This year, however, the schedulers surpassed their previous attempts to drive us out of our living rooms and down to the nearest watering hole.

If I’d sat down to write a page of spoof TV listings, I couldn’t have dreamt up anything more boring and predictable than the drivel the Irish channels served up to us yesterday. It was a crock all right, but not of gold.

The centrepiece of RTE1’s afternoon was, naturally, the Dublin parade, coverage of which would be improved no end if Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh and Aidan Power didn’t keep sticking their heads in the way, obscuring our view of the best displays.

Later in the day, wedged between Fair City and the nightly news, Cloch Le Carn treated us to a profile of the late politician Jackie Healy-Rae.

I suppose there’s no better way for the national broadcaster to celebrate all that’s good about modern Ireland than by screening a documentary tribute to the man who embodied all that is grubby, small-minded, opportunistic and cynical about Irish politics.

3e had Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance and a Brendan Grace stand-up show (repeated two hours later on its sibling channel, TV3).

TG4 offered its usual steady diet of programmes about traditional music, which, while it might not be to your taste (or indeed mine), is at least authentic Irish culture.

Movies are a handy way for broadcasters to fill space on St Patrick’s Day and this year was no different. Neither, come to that, were the movies shown across the Irish channels.

All the hackneyed titles you’d expect were there: Flight of the Doves; Darby O’Gill and the Little People; The War of the Buttons; PS I Love You, as well as a Hallmark Channel abomination called Chasing Leprechauns, starring Amy Huberman. I bet that doesn’t figure too prominently on Mrs BOD’s showreel.

But who’s that, marching at the front, tweed cap at a rakish angle, pulling a red-haired colleen along behind him? Why, it’s big, wooden John Wayne as Sean Thornton in John Ford’s insufferable The Quiet Man.

Well, of course it is! Sure ‘tis part of what we are, begorrah and bejapers. What, you ask, would St Patrick’s Day TV be without The Quiet Man? A whole lot more tolerable, for one thing. I loathe The Quiet Man. I loathe the avalanche of stage-Irish cliches and the appallingly hammy performances by a supporting cast of Abbey actors.

I loathe that it features the odious reactionary Ward Bond, a fifth-rate actor and first-rate drunk whose most significant contribution to Hollywood history was his aggressive persecution of bigger, better talents he accused of being Communists.

Most of all, I loathe the way it’s celebrated as an icon of Irishness. Ford at his finest was one of the great film directors.

The Quiet Man is not his finest. For all its picture-postcard visual beauty, it’s patronising pap: a second-generation Irish-American’s fantasy of an Ireland that never existed, filtered through a haze of booze and maudlin sentimentality.

If all this is the best Irish TV can do in 2015, we deserve to be stereotyped.

Online Editors