Friday 15 December 2017

Television: More trouble ahead for Carrie - better call Saul

Knocks: Ronan O'Gara recalled a collision which left him seeing the pitch as the size of a postcard in RTE's Hidden Impact.
Knocks: Ronan O'Gara recalled a collision which left him seeing the pitch as the size of a postcard in RTE's Hidden Impact.
Claire Danes as Carrie in Homeland

John Boland

Having caused such mayhem in the Middle East that World War Three seemed inevitable, Carrie Matheson is now in Berlin, where she has found God, family ties, a nice corporate job and a ginger-haired boyfriend.

Yes, Homeland is back for a fifth season (RTE2), but the ginger-haired boyfriend isn't a resuscitated Brody, who we all saw being publicly hanged at the end of the third season. And nor is Quinn back in her life - instead he's gone rogue and is carrying out secret assassinations at the behest of CIA mentor Saul.

Meanwhile, Carrie's new boss is a German billionaire philanthropist who asks for her assistance in providing humanitarian aid to war-torn refugees but who looks decidedly dodgy to me. Oh, and there's also a really annoying girl hacker who has unearthed documents implicating the CIA and their Teutonic counterparts in illegal surveillance of German citizens.

Yes, it's all happening in the new Homeland, though not really in this week's first episode, which didn't feature even one scene in which Carrie blew a gasket or lost her marbles. Plainly she's back on her meds, so that even when she was kidnapped by a Hezbollah operative she didn't have a meltdown. But it's early days yet, and one thing you can be sure of with Homeland is that there will be lots of meltdowns as Carrie gets sucked back in to the life she'd vowed to leave behind. Whether you'll want to accompany her may well depend on your tolerance of Claire Danes's facial contortions and your fascination with Mandy Patinkin's beard.

Still, it was somewhat more encouraging than the opening instalment of From Darkness (BBC1), a four-part thriller in which ex-Manchester copper Claire (Anne-Marie Duff) reluctantly agreed to help former colleague John (Johnny Harris) in solving a 15-year-old case involving murdered prostitutes.

Every tired old convention of the genre got recycled in this first episode.

"Look at you," Claire said to John, "fat, embittered, heavy-drinking, middle-aged detective - do you know how much of a cliche that is?" Sadly, the screenwriter's awareness of the fact didn't make it any less of a cliche.

There were also lots of doomy skies and oodles of anguish, with endless shots of Claire staring gauntly into the distance, as if the makers were intent on outdoing their Scandinavian counterparts. Instead, they fell far short. Indeed, there will only ever be one Wallander, whose creator, Henning Mankell, died this week.

Almost 100,000 schoolboys play rugby in Ireland and many of their parents will have been unsettled by Hidden Impact: Rugby and Concussion (RTE1), in which the toll that the game can take was made clear.

There were sobering contributions both from medical experts and from players - Ronan O'Gara recalling a collision during the 2003 World Cup quarter-final against France which left him seeing the pitch as the size of a postcard. Yet such was the rugby ethos of the time that leaving the field to get medical attention was unthinkable to him. Indeed, Bristol neurosurgeon Micael Carter angered rugby authorities with his contention that "schools, coaches and parents all contribute to a tribal gladiatorial culture that encourages excessive aggression, suppresses injury reporting and encourages players to carry on when injured".

He developed these points in the film, and Allyson Pollock, who's a professor of public health research in Britain, recalled that when her son was injured in a schoolboy match, she was dismissed by rugby authorities as a "hysterical anxious mother".

The rules regarding on-field injury have been tightened in recent years, but it's undeniable that rugby, much though many of us love it, remains a much more dangerous game than football, one of whose heroes was celebrated in Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals (BBC1).

And celebration rather than assessment was the clear intent of an hour-long profile which featured tributes from Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Sven-Goran Eriksson and other football luminaries. But the main thrust concerned the man himself, who made himself amiably available to interviewer Gary Lineker and who came across as a decent, family-loving man with not an awful lot to say for himself. Wife Coleen observed that he was "shy until he gets to know you and then he just doesn't shut up".

However, he did reveal that he loved writing poems and Coleen mentioned he had recently written one to her.

"It was nice", she said, prompting Lineker to ask hopefully: "Don't suppose you'll show us?" Sadly, he supposed correctly. Still, a poet on and off the field - who'd have thought?

In the first instalment of Britain's Best Loved Sitcoms (Channel 4), the bottom 25 out of 50 didn't feature Mrs Brown's Boys, which means Brendan O'Carroll's show, though reviled by most critics, will probably turn up in tonight's list of the top 25 - up there, I presume, with Father Ted, though Fawlty Towers seems a shoo-in for the number one spot.

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