Wednesday 24 January 2018

Television: BOD sadly absent from the centre of this Croke Park celebration...

Hamlet without the prince: Brian O’Driscoll in action against England at Croke Park in 2007. Photo: Brendan Moran
Hamlet without the prince: Brian O’Driscoll in action against England at Croke Park in 2007. Photo: Brendan Moran

John Boland

On the night of Ireland's rugby victory against England last weekend, No Words Needed: Croke Park 2007 (RTÉ1) harked back to an even more stirring win against the auld enemy, but the film turned out to be a classic case of Hamlet without the prince.

Indeed, without the princes, because among the missing interviewees from this account of Ireland's 43-13 triumph against England in 2007 were not just captain Brian O'Driscoll but also such other key players as Paul O'Connell, Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer, while on the English side only Martin Corry was there to reminisce about the historic nature of the occasion.

Instead there was the usual guff from retired GAA commentator Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh about the hallowed nature of the venue and from go-to pundit Eamon Dunphy about this "transcendent moment of reconciliation", along with self-serving twaddle from Bertie Ahern about how President McAleese "embraced me, as we always did at these matches".

And room was also found for ubiquitous historian Diarmaid Ferriter, who provided his customary tuppence-worth on the significance of it all. Indeed, so much time was devoted to the momentous background that little room was left for the match itself, which went by in a flurry towards the very end.

But if O'Driscoll was the documentary's most notable absentee, whether for contractual or other reasons, he was very much at the centre of Après Match of the Day (RTÉ2), which replayed the 2000 match against France in which he announced his arrival on the international scene by scoring a dazzling hat-trick of tries.

The footage was accompanied by cod match commentary in which Ryle Nugent had constant orgasms over BOD ("who went to Blackrock") and summed up the half-time score as "France 13, Blackrock 7". Back in the studio, though, Risteard Cooper's snarling George Hook was less impressed, declaring BOD to be merely "an average centre playing outside the best No 10 in world rugby".

Then came the second-half tries, with Ryle exulting that "this is the best moment of my life" and "an amazing day to be Irish, especially if you've gone to Blackrock", while Hook dismissed BOD as a "fly by night" and Brent Pope dismissed Hook as "a tool who talks out of his rear end".

These Après Match piss-takes can be a bit limp at times, but I chortled a lot here, though maybe that's just because it was a wickedly irreverent take on my favourite sport.

There weren't a lot of laughs, though, in Crash and Burn (BBC1), which chronicled the rise and fall of Dundalk-born racing driver Tommy Byrne, who was once being touted as Ayrton Senna's greatest racetrack rival.

That was in the early 1980s, Byrne having become Formula Ford champion at the start of the decade, but a mixture of bad luck, bad judgments and an overweening sense of himself, not to mention lots of partying and womanising, led to his topple from the top.

It was a fascinating story about a sport of which I know little and about one man's decline and fall, though either through my own obtuseness or the film's lack of clarity I never quite understood the exact cause of his downfall from the pinnacle of his sport.

By contrast, Vera Lynn, who celebrated her hundredth birthday during the week, remained at the top of her game for most of her life and remains cherished by all those who grew up listening to 'We'll Meet Again', 'The White Cliffs of Dover' and other World War II favourites.

Indeed, the most poignant section of Dame Vera Lynn: Happy Hundredth Birthday (BBC2) came from old soldiers, now nearly as aged as herself, to whom she sang in Burma in the mid-1940s. Some of them cried when they recalled her brave appearance among them, and among others paying fond tribute were Paul McCartney, Tim Rice and Barry Humphries. A touching programme.

The three-part American Justice made an arresting start on the same channel. Filmed in Jacksonville, which has been dubbed 'the murder capital of Florida', it focused on two cases, one of them concerning burglar Trey, who was being tried for the murder of his accomplice, even though the accomplice had been shot dead by a neighbour of the man they were purportedly robbing and Trey hadn't fired a shot.

His lawyer had suggested that he plead guilty as this would lessen his sentence by dispensing with the need for an expensive trial, but he took the stand anyway, and his own version of events, whether true or not, was accepted by the jury, who found him not guilty.

The film also focused on State Attorney Angela Corey, a controversially enthusiastic advocate of the death penalty, whose rival for the job argued that she'd been misusing her power.

Meanwhile, the second instalment of Big Little Lies (Sky Atlantic) had even more good one-liners than the first, as in a local's assessment of the busybody mom played by Reese Witherspoon: "Faeces are never far from Madeline's fan."

Proving the point, Madeline threatened a general boycott of a child's party being organised by Laura Dern's rich career woman, leading the latter to hiss at her "Do not f*** with my daughter's birthday" and for Madeline to respond "What a c**t. Why don't you get f***ed?"

We're a long way from Kansas, Toto, or even from Desperate Housewives, where such rude talk was never permitted, though these new housewives are just as desperate, with Nicole Kidman's Celeste trying to rationalise her husband's violent rages by declaring "Sometimes I think he likes to fight because it leads to sex," before adding: "Sometimes I think I like it, too."

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