Saturday 16 December 2017

Television: Hairy times in Limerick as Willie helps homeless in Dail on the Dole

John Boland reviews Dail on the Dole and new US series Empire

Willie O'Dea in TV3's Dáil on the Dole
Willie O'Dea in TV3's Dáil on the Dole

John Boland

It hasn't gone away, you know. I'm talking about Willie O'Dea's moustache, that mesmerising facial adornment with which Limerick's former Fianna Fáil minister has long been synonymous and to which he has been as loyal as to his party's latterly benighted cause.

German porn stars may have discarded their defining bushy outcrops three decades ago - and, though not in the same profession, I shaved off mine at much the same time - while even Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds have finally opted for the fully bearded look that more befits their ageing gravitas. But Willie clearly intends to soldier on as the last moustached man in the western world.

And so the question posed by the second instalment of Dáil on the Dole (TV3) was this: would the viewer be able to endure 50 minutes of having to look at Willie's thingamajig?

Actually, the programme turned out to be somewhat more interesting than last week's instalment, which had featured Fine Gael TD Catherine Dunne and which, for all its earnest do-goodery intentions - or, indeed, because of them - could have bored holes in rocks.

Willie, though, was a quirkier presence, and not just because of the moustache, and he seemed genuinely concerned about the plight of former drug user Jamie, who was seeking living quarters, and of the Llewellyn family, whose supposedly temporary accommodation in a hotel room was now dragged out to 17 weeks at a cost to the taxpayer of €l08 a night.

So Willie pulled a few strings, which got Jamie a one-bedroom flat, but even a Dáil plea to the Taoiseach didn't achieve anything for the Llewellyns, who were still in the hotel room as the programme ended.

Indeed, the film was strikingly bleak about the housing crisis in Limerick, Willie himself recalling the night he spent sleeping rough at the invitation of the Simon Community. If he had to do that every night, he confessed, "I would certainly be drunk or drugged or whatever". And someone might have stolen his moustache.

Investigative reporter Declan Lawn was also a man on a mission, and in Britain's Biggest Diamond Heist? The Inside Story (BBC1) he promised to reveal how the recent Hatton Garden jewel robbery was carried out.

To this end, he abseiled down lift shafts, drilled through concrete walls and attacked safety-deposit boxes with blunt instruments, all the while assuring us of the arduous and dangerous nature of the tasks he was undertaking on our behalf.

The result was to make Darragh MacIntyre and other crusading journalists seem like wimps, though Lawn was alarmingly vague in many of his assertions. The robbers "probably had to have cutting equipment" in the lift shaft, they also "probably used drills" which "could have been even quicker", and as for the overall monetary value of the stolen jewels, well, no one knows but it was "certainly staggering". Which was more than could be said for this fatuous and preening exercise.

Empire (E4) has been a huge ratings winner for Fox in the United States, with Michelle Obama a fan, though whether viewers on this side of the Atlantic will embrace it so wholeheartedly remains to be seen.

Perhaps the First Lady was taken with the fact that this soap opera about a record company has a largely black cast or perhaps she chuckled at the response of main character Luscious Lyon to a dinner invitation from the White House: "Tell Barack yes, but this is the last one for the next few months".

Luscious (Terrence Howard) had just been diagnosed with a terminal disease and was trying to decide who should inherit the family business: sober-minded oldest son, gay middle son or off-the-wall rapper son. At which point along came ex-wife Cookie, who'd been languishing in jail for 17 years, having taken the fall for her hubby's former drug-dealing career. She was given most of the best lines and Taraji P Henson delivered them with aplomb, as in her first visit to the gay son's apartment: "For a queen, you sure do keep a messy place".

Empire is Dynasty in all but name and assembled with similarly lurid broad strokes. But it's enacted with considerable verve and the music is pretty good, too. Maybe it will just be your kind of thing.

The Good Wife, which began a sixth season on RTÉ1 this week, is among the sleekest of television dramas and is so well written and acted that, whenever I happen upon an episode, I become immediately engrossed. Why, then, do I not find it unmissable?

Maybe it's something to do with that very sleekness - for all the dramatic events onscreen, there's no real sense that anything is truly at stake.

The new season opened arrestingly, with young lawyer Cary Agos arrested on a drugs charge and flung into a holding cell. Yet though this should have been traumatic, the viewer simply waited for Alicia to get to work sorting it out. Indeed, I fancy I'll be dipping in and out of the action just as I've done throughout the previous five seasons - and without feeling I'm missing anything crucial.

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