Sunday 8 December 2019

Television: A mixed bag of marriage, bigamy, saucy cha-chaing and Trump

Take heart: RTÉ’s Then Comes Marriage?
Take heart: RTÉ’s Then Comes Marriage?

John Boland

In Then Comes Marriage? (RTÉ2), three young couples intending wedlock had their relationships assessed during a country-house retreat in Carlow.

Psychotherapist Ray was the chief dispenser of wisdom, earnestly assuring them that "the more you put into it, the more you'll definitely get out of it" and revealing that "it's a real challenge for men to admit they've made a mistake". Who'd have thought?

In between times, the couples were asked to assemble a trampoline, just to see how well they worked together. It was all very exciting.

Meanwhile, the third instalment of legal drama Striking Out (RTÉ1) saw two women at the hospital bed of 57-year-old Barry, who'd keeled over while watching a football match. I'm his wife, said the first woman. No, I'm his wife, said the second. And I'm Spartacus, said solicitor Tara, who was representing the second woman. Well, she should have.

Then, wouldn't you know, Tara's cheating ex-fiancé Eric announced that he'd be representing the first woman in court and that it was all going to end up in an ugly battle which Tara couldn't possibly win.

But he was reckoning without Tara's freelance cyber-sleuth Meg - Mystic Meg, really, given her ability to come up with amazing disclosures in a matter of seconds - such as that stricken Barry might be involved in organised crime, though, curiously, this was never again mentioned in the entire episode.

Instead, bigamist Barry's son volunteered to donate a life-saving liver, but this was vetoed by the venomous first wife. Meg, though, got the dirt on her, too, which destroyed her credibility during the daftest court hearing you're ever likely to witness.

But then this series has got dafter by the week, so dotty that it's almost cherishable, especially to connoisseurs of bad dialogue. "If he dies," fumed the first wife, "they'll have to revive him, so I can kill him all over again". And when Tara wondered if Barry was a golfer, Meg retorted "Nah, you can't run two women and play golf". Not many people know that.

I'd have been more engrossed by We Need To Talk About Dad (RTÉ1), Brendan Courtney's documentary about his father's disabling second stroke and its effect on the family, if Courtney hadn't been on The Late Late Show three nights earlier talking at length about it, with Ryan Tubridy furnishing clips from the programme.

This is the second time in as many weeks that The Late Late has provided extended puffs for upcoming RTÉ programmes. Does no one in Montrose realise that these relentless in-house promos are counterproductive for anyone who has lots of viewing alternatives on other channels?

Speaking of which, there was the second instalment of the much-hyped Dancing With The Stars (RTÉ1), in which the six women contestants got to strut their stuff. Again, exuberant judge Julian was in ecstatic overdrive, declaring of Aoibhín Garrihy's cha-cha that "it was saucy, it was sensual, it was sassy"; that Thalia Heffernan's quickstep looked "divine"; and that Denise McCormack's jiving was "just jive-ilicious".

Fellow judge Brian, though, was in sterner mode, if overly intent on making viewers aware that he knows everything there is to be known about dancing. He should lighten up.

I was enthusiastic about this show in last week's column, though, in truth, it's not my thing and I'll probably only visit future instalments just to see who's been eliminated. Indeed, halfway through last Sunday night's show, I felt like echoing Mr Bennet in Pride And Prejudice, who gently told his performing daughter: "You have delighted us enough."

In the week of the US presidential inauguration, I learned nothing I hadn't already heard in Trump: The Kremlin Candidate? (BBC1), while in President Trump's Dirty Secrets (Channel 4), there was little new said about the climate-change deniers he has appointed to key environmental roles.

Meet The Trumps (also Channel 4) was more interesting. I hadn't known that when Trump's grandfather wished to resettle in the Germany from which he had emigrated to the United States, he was refused by the Bavarian authorities and deported back to America. Yikes, how local decisions can change history.

It was also changed by the decision of Donald Trump's mother, Mary Ann, to leave the Hebridean island of her birth and go to New York, where she met Trump's father at a dance (there was footage of her in old age being interviewed by Bibi Baskin).

As for the father, his mantra to his sons was "you are killers, you are kings", while his now presidential son was shown telling a television interviewer that his success was at least 80pc due to the genes he had inherited from his ruthless antecedents. Of such are masters of the universe bred.

Homeland (RTÉ2) is back for a sixth season, with Carrie now running a Manhattan non-profit outfit that defends Muslims who fall foul of the authorities. She also lives in a lovely Brooklyn brownstone with her daughter.

So all's well? Not exactly. Former undercover pal Quinn, presumed dead at the end of season five, is still in the land of the living even though he's self-destructing with crack cocaine and hookers. Saul is lurking somewhere in the background and there are mutterings about Syria, Isis, Boko Haram and Edward Snowden. Oh, and there's a new president-elect, though it's a woman rather than Trump, whose victory the makers of the series clearly hadn't envisaged.

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