Friday 27 April 2018

Television: 'Midday' wades into unusually serious waters

*Midday, TV 3
*Veep, Sky Atlantic
*Falling Skies, FOX

Emma Murphy talks to Elaine Crowley on Midday on TV3
Emma Murphy talks to Elaine Crowley on Midday on TV3
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Despite our new, State-enforced tolerance, the gender gap seems to be widening, as the icy stranglehold of identity politics seeks to create further confusion and rancour between the sexes.

There are plenty of reasons for that, of course. Not least among them is the sincerely held belief of many men that women are fundamentally mad and irrational. Let's put it this way, my father once advised me that "compromise is when you both agree she's right."

He wasn't a typically sexist dinosaur (far from it, he was always more politically correct than his trouble-making eldest son), he had simply learned that trying to argue with women is a pointless and ultimately self-defeating venture.

Of course, that can be dismissed as patronising, or sexy (sorry, I meant to say sexist), or just mean. But even a quick dip into the ocean of oestrogen that is TV3's Midday will be enough to send most blokes scampering for their man cave, having finally decided that whatever the genders have to find out about each other, it won't be found here.

In a country that routinely sees women appearing on radio and TV to bemoan the lack of women on radio and TV, this show is seldom used as proof that there are still some gigs that cater only for female consumers.

Is that because these campaigners don't want to weaken their argument by acknowledging a chat show that is made exclusively by and for women? Or is it because men don't even know the show exists? More likely, it's a combination of the two.

Taking the same format as The View and Loose Women, and hosted by the capable Elaine Crowley, a bunch of women sit around and witter about the things that matter to them. It's usually light and breezy and, depending on your mood, either harmless, ephemeral fluff or infuriating, ephemeral fluff.

Let's put it this way, it's the kind of show where guests routinely squawk such truisms as 'women are better at multi-tasking than men', when we all know that's not the case, they just do a lot of things badly at the same time.

If most programmes feature dumb people pretending to be smarter than they are, there is often the impression that the guests here are smart people pretending to be dumb (although that's probably my male privilege talking), which would be an appallingly patronising approach to a women's issue programme - if it wasn't made by women.

But yesterday's episode was unusual in that it was actually serious - well, the first item was, anyway.

Crowley interviewed Emma Murphy, the young woman who posted a video of her bruised face on Facebook following an alleged assault by her partner.

The presenter dealt with the topic sensitively and professionally, while guest, Tina Koumarianos, had her own personal example of how not all abuse is physical.

Fellow contributor Terry Prone was one of the founders of Women's Aid and she was at pains to point out that domestic abuse "is never as simple as it seems".

For a show that usually wallows in the shallows, this was an impressive visit to the deep end.

It's entirely possible that there are better comedies on TV than Veep, but none of them immediately spring to mind.

With the great Armando Iannucci as the show runner, it's no surprise that Veep has been such a success, even if many American critics had a hard time accepting that a Brit could be so forensically accurate about American politics.

Then again, as his previous brilliant creation, The Thick Of It proved, politics may be different in different countries, but the same absurd, deranged and pathologically deluded personalities keep popping up in every country which still allows free elections.

When we last saw Veep, Vice President Selina Myers (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) had just been promoted to the big gig, but after that initial flush of success, things have gone from bad to worse.

Bets are being taken on whether she will be the shortest-serving president in US history, her staff are falling apart and her daughter is despised by the general public.

When the first season of Veep aired, Hillary Clinton was still coquettishly denying that she was going to run, so it's serendipitous for the writers that this new season coincides with that awful woman's election campaign.

Whether Hillary will appreciate the synchronicity is doubtful.

After all, La Clinton's real-life email server scandal is so utterly demented and dodgy that it could easily have been lifted from a page from the hapless Selina's playbook.

But regardless of where you stand on the real-life politics the show satirises (and let's face it, the Clintons are the Bonnie and Clyde of American politics), Veep is whip-smart, features the kind of acid dialogue we've come to expect from Iannucci's marvellously embittered pen and the cast of supporting characters, including the new addition of Hugh Laurie once more showing his flawless American accent, make this the best American political satire in years.

When sci-fi goes all cerebral, as it did with Battlestar Galactica, the results can be astonishing.

After all, the rebooting of Battlestar featured an entire season where the heroes were human suicide bombers waging war against the occupying Cylon forces.

Given that this aired when American soldiers were being blown up by suicide bombers and IEDs in Iraq at the time, it was a remarkably brave, some might say foolhardy, piece of television.

But some sci-fi shows should just concentrate on blowing shit up and killing aliens.

Falling Skies fell between two stools and succeeded at neither - too much cod philosophy and not enough violence - but now that it has returned for its final season, it seems the producers have decided to throw everything they can at the screen.

Noah Wyle is still mildly insufferable as Tom Mason, leader of one of the few remaining bands of human resistance. But with the tide of the war beginning to turn in their favour, reports filter in of similar desperate resistance around the globe.

This week's episode was like a cross between Starship Troopers and a shoot 'em up game.

And it was great fun, which isn't something you'd normally say about a programme whose main fault has always been taking itself too seriously.

Irish Independent

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