Sunday 17 December 2017

Television: Not much of the rogue in skin-deep Paidi profile

Off the ball: The RTE profile of Paidi O Se was full of threadbare insights
Off the ball: The RTE profile of Paidi O Se was full of threadbare insights

John Boland

Apart from the fact that they all died within the last few years, what have Brian Lenihan, Tony Ryan and Paidi O Se got in common? Absolutely nothing, as far as I can make out. So why lump them together in a three-part RTÉ1 series called Legacy? I haven't a clue.

Even as individual profiles, these three films have been unsatisfactory, being content with threadbare insights into their subjects' characters while heavily reliant on received wisdom about their professional achievements and setbacks.

This week's O Se: A Legacy was especially uninvolving, or at least it was to someone who's never had more than minimal interest in the exploits of the Kerry football team and who was given no reason by this skin-deep and largely uncritical film to alter that state of apathy.

Yes, we heard that O Se's career, both as player and manager, was "shrouded in controversy", but the evidence given amounted to nothing more than a rehashing of the same old clashes with the Kerry board that had made headlines at the time. And, yes, we heard of a friendship with Charles J Haughey that enabled O Se to get planning permission for his Ventry pub, but the roots and details of that friendship weren't explored.

And while GAA commentator Marty Morrissey deemed one of O Se's character traits to be that of a "rogue", we didn't learn how that roguery manifested itself - apart from some match footage of him giving opponents a clattering.

Indeed, for those not in thrall to the mythology of Kerry football, there was far too much match footage here and too little exploration of the man himself and what made him tick. "A lost soul" was what Micheal O Muircheartaigh felt when O Se was dropped from the team in 1988, but the film either never bothered, or dared, to go there.

In Independents' Day (RTÉ1), the best value came from Mick Wallace and Pat Rabbitte - the latter describing high-profile independent TDs as "exotic creatures" whose main wish was to "display their plumage" (that's you, Mick), and the former conceding that, far from coming up with a coherent strategy, his independent colleagues will "eat each other alive".

Pat Leahy's film told us nothing new about the changed political state of the nation, but the soundbites remained good throughout, with Rabbitte in such waspish form that you almost wished he was back dominating the airwaves.

I said almost. And another thing the film had going for it was that it didn't find any room for Joe Higgins. Indeed, droning dogmatism was largely absent from a film that instead gave voice to the cheerful and perhaps deluded optimism of Lucinda Creighton, who was of the earnest opinion that "there's definitely an appetite for something new". That, however, mightn't include a relish for her Renua party or for any of the other uneasy attempts at independent groupings in which, as Wallace noted, "there's a lot of big egos".

Well, the electorate will sort all that out next time around.

In the meantime, the tedious culinary series Lords and Ladles (RTÉ1) continues to tug its forelock to its country house hosts, while over on UTV Ireland, Mount Stewart: The Big House Reborn (UTV Ireland) has been practically on its knees genuflecting to "lady of the house" Rose Lauritzen, who probably doesn't hail from Darndale and whose stately pile is "in desperate need of repair".

Mount Stewart, the awed narrator informs us, can be found "sitting proudly" on the shores of Strangford loch and has always been "a haven of serene quietness". Not anymore, though, because the restoration men have moved in, not to mention the UTV cameras, which have been allowed "unprecedented access" to the project.

Of course they have, given that the tone is so grovelling. It's on occasions like this that I rediscover my republicanism, however small its "r" may be.

In Dan Cruickshank's Civilisation Under Attack (BBC4), the man who brought us the excellent and visually beautiful Around the World in 80 Treasures, tried to find out why thousands of years of cultural history are being "reduced to dust" by Islamic extremists.

As he watched footage of these psychopathic morons gleefully taking jackhammers and explosives to priceless artifacts, he moaned "Oh!" and "Owww!" and then went for coffee in a London cake shop where he asked a prominent hardline Islamist what he felt about such wanton destruction of a civilisation. "I feel very pleased, actually," the man smirkingly said.

In the third episode of Humans (Channel 4), dishy robot servant Anita, who had been hit by a truck, asked hubby employer Joe to carry out a "full inspection" of her. "So where do we start?" Joe asked. "My clothes must be removed", she ordered.

I had been wondering how long we'd have to wait for this, though in the end the makers funked the scene's potential. Maybe next week.

And maybe next week, too, for Black Work (UTV Ireland), which began promisingly but which has become somewhat sluggish and occasionally quite implausible.

Even Sheridan Smith seems defeated by the storyline and script she's been handed. She's still watchable, but I can't see her picking up a BAFTA for this.

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