Thursday 19 April 2018

Television: Daniel provided some welcome steel to Dermot's house of glass

Living the dream: Daniel O'Donnell, Lisa O'Brien, Majella O'Donnell and Dermot Bannon in Room to Improve
Living the dream: Daniel O'Donnell, Lisa O'Brien, Majella O'Donnell and Dermot Bannon in Room to Improve

John Boland

With RTÉ intent on persuading us that GAA commentator Marty Morrissey is a national treasure, it's hardly surprising that he remains unevicted from Dancing with the Stars - even though his clodhopping stage antics make a nonsense of a contest that purports to reward basic dancing skills.

Our state broadcaster clearly also deems Daniel and Majella O'Donnell to be national treasures, to the extent of taking their smarmy and schmaltzy bed-and-breakfast road-trip series from the now-defunct UTV Ireland.

And indeed it seems to regard Dermot Bannon in the same star-struck light - for more than a decade now he's been RTÉ's favoured, indeed only, architect, even when, a couple of months back, he went to New York and gushed embarrassingly about the multimillion-dollar apartments he found there. I trust that the cash-strapped Irish couples to whom he smugly condescends on Room to Improve were suitably impressed.

So the prospect of encountering these three people together in last Sunday night's Room to Improve (RTÉ1) was enough to make me contemplate a visit to my local, but I persisted and found the experience, if not exactly riveting, at least quite intriguing.

This had less to do with predictable mock spats between Bannon and the feisty Majella than with the demeanour of the singer as he learned what the architect was proposing for the reconstruction of the couple's Donegal home. There was a steeliness here that I'd often sensed lurking behind the blandly saccharine manner, and it turned out to be bracing, especially when conveyed in withering looks rather than dismissive words, though he was quite adept at these, too.

In the end, of course, it all worked out happily, as it always does on this show - the singer having moved from a weary "I couldn't care less if there was nothing done" to "Oh, my word, that's fantastic!" and his spouse declaring "I'm in heaven!" And, needless to say, Bannon was chuffed by the architectural miracles he'd achieved, as presumably were the glass manufacturers he keeps in business. Rushed into the schedules to commemorate her untimely death last month, Dolores (RTÉ1) mainly consisted of an interview Dave Fanning had conducted with the Cranberries' lead singer almost 20 years ago.

She was frank and often funny in her observations, but very little context was provided and, anyway, I couldn't help feeling that this was all a long time ago and that an updated account was badly needed. Then the film abruptly ended, as if in mid-sentence. Somewhat of a botched tribute, though the rapport between interviewer and singer was pleasing.

The 15th season of Eco Eye (RTÉ1) has been among the best, with Duncan Stewart handing over most of the presentation duties to Anja Murray and Lara Dungan, both of them clearly engaged in their respective subjects and engagingly adept at communicating them.

This week, Dungan addressed our rising greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on the kinds of transport we use, in the process telling me more about the pros and cons of electric cars than I'd known before, and visiting the Netherlands, where concern for the environment is much more advanced than here.

Over on Channel 4, Working with Weinstein didn't tell me much more about the disgraced movie producer than I'd known already, though the recollections of former assistant Zelda Perkins and Irish-born former executive Laura Madden still managed to be shocking.

To date, Harvey Weinstein hasn't been indicted, or even charged with any crimes, but the sheer amount of oral and written testimony suggests monstrous behaviour by a repellent and extremely nasty individual - indeed, so appalling that you were left wondering how so many of his victims, employees as well as celebrities, stayed silent for so long. But then, as Madden said, such was his rage that they all lived in "fear of the wrath of Harvey".

Hold the Sunset (BBC1) is a new sitcom that stars Alison Steadman and John Cleese as elderly neighbours whose long-term relationship is threatened when her 50-year-old son leaves his wife and children and moves back home.

It was all so tame and jaded I felt as if I were watching a rerun of Terry and June, George and Mildred or any of those other dire suburban sitcoms that used to be churned out in the 1970s and early 80s. And the attempt by Cleese, in his first BBC show since Fawlty Towers, to be genially benign was so excruciating that I didn't know where to look.

Troy: Fall of a City (BBC1) seems like an attempt to attract Game of Thrones fans, though its somewhat sluggish opening episode hadn't any of that franchise's oomph.

Still, if it managed to avoid the pitfalls of those lame-duck 2004 movies, the Brad Pitt vehicle Troy or the Colin Farrell crock Alexander, it might build an audience. Certainly it looked good, stayed reasonably attentive to Homer's myth-making and had some decent playing from a largely unknown cast.

Then, of course, there's the seventh season of Homeland (RTÉ2), though personally I've had it up to here with Carrie and her tantrums and meltdowns and eye-rollings and facial twitches. And with Quinn murdered at last season's end, who's there left to root for?

Not fascist US president Elizabeth, anyway, who, as portrayed by Elizabeth Marvel, looks disconcertingly like Allison Janney gone wrong. And certainly not the slippery Dar Adal, though F Murray Abraham is always good value. And definitely not the president's slimy aide David, though Linus Roache clearly revels in his sliminess.

So it's back to Carrie yet again, though I don't know if I can take it.

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