Sunday 25 March 2018

Television: RTÉ happy to pay the cheque for Daniel's love-in with landladies

Daniel and Majella pop into Nancy Lee's B&B on their latest road trip
Daniel and Majella pop into Nancy Lee's B&B on their latest road trip

John Boland

The recent demise of the short-lived UTV Ireland was largely unlamented, though it seems that RTÉ coveted one of its few attempts at original programming, and so we now have the second season of Daniel and Majella's B&B Road Trip transferred to RTÉ1.

This had been one of UTV Ireland's battier concoctions, an exercise in forced jollity as the crooner and his spouse stayed overnight in bed-and-breakfast establishments whose landladies practically had fainting fits at the thought of the Donegal deity curled up under their duvets.

"I have a celebrity coming to my house!" trilled widowed Nancy to her Tralee neighbours at the opening of this week's RTÉ instalment. She then declared her intention to peep into the couple's bedroom as they slumbered, just to ascertain what side her hero slept on.

The Sacred Heart images scattered throughout the house didn't look too amused by this plan and nor did Majella, though soon everyone decamped to the ballroom of a local pub, where Daniel graciously danced with the starry-eyed local women who had gathered for the occasion.

The laboured high jinks continued the next morning when Nancy's grandson took the duo to an adventure park, where they had a race down a swimming pool while encased in gigantic transparent balls - a fitting metaphor, as it happens, for the whole enterprise. And for this we pay our licence fee.

We also pay it for Home of the Year (RTÉ1), which in its Celtic Tigerish drooling over competing properties should be retitled My House is Much Nicer Than Yours. Some of the drooling comes from the competitors themselves ("We can't but be proud really," said Elaine of her Co Clare glass mansion) but mostly it emanates from the three judges, especially from interior designer Deirdre, who has clearly taken out a patent on her chosen superlatives.

The flooring in Elaine's house was "just divine", while the kitchen was both "gorgeous" and "fabulous" with "gorgeous high chairs". As for Pat's south county Dublin cottage, it had a "gorgeous little terrace" and a "gorgeous little corner", not to mention a "gorgeous connection to the garden". Esther and Ed's converted Dublin apartment, though not gorgeous, was nonetheless "quite amazing", a "fantastic family home" with a sofa that was "just fantastic", and the only way to describe the bathroom was with an awestruck "Wow!" - though personally I can think of other words for such gushingly uncritical nonsense.

Meanwhile the latest season of Room to Improve (RTÉ1) - or, as I prefer to call it, There Will Be Glass - came to an end with architect presenter Dermot Bannon's reconstruction of a 1970s semi-detached house in Templeogue. "He'll knock the hole out of it," Fergal from Cavan had said on Gogglebox (TV3) of the previous week's renovation of a farmhouse, and Dermot certainly knocked the hole out of the Templeogue semi, replacing the gloom with windows and skylights everywhere - though not before a seemingly interminable hour of bickering banter had passed.

With the disgraced but clearly unrepentant Jeremy Clarkson currently giving two fingers to the BBC on Amazon Prime, where he tools around the world with macho pals Hammond and May, Top Gear has returned to BBC2, though minus Chris Evans, whose hosting of the show last year resulted in disastrous ratings.

But Matt LeBlanc is still there and in this week's opening instalment he did his doggedly cheerful best to persuade viewers that there's still some life in this tired old warhorse. A pity then that his badinage with new co-hosts Chris Harris and Rory Reid was so strained, and that the latter two had no personality whatsoever.

Another old warhorse has returned in the form of Prime Suspect 1973 (TV3), though here we're asked to consider the police career of Jane Tennison two decades before she turned into Helen Mirren. Endeavour accomplished a similar task in its persuasive imagining of Inspector Morse's early career, but this Prime Suspect prequel is very lacklustre and Stefanie Martini never manages to suggest how she'll become the formidable presence that made Mirren's inhabiting of the role so memorable.

Much better is the third season of Broadchurch (TV3), which badly lost both its grip and its credibility in its last incarnation. The Dorset seaside setting remains the same, as does the odd-couple police pairing of Olivia Colman and David Tennant, but the storyline, involving the rape of a middle-aged woman, is much stronger and with due attention paid to the trauma involved.

At this stage, viewers can take their pick from a variety of suspects, all of them so convincingly drawn that you really do want to know the outcome.

As played by F Murray Abraham, CIA operative Dar Adal was always a sinister presence in Homeland (RTÉ2), but in this week's seventh episode of the sixth season, his true and lethal nefariousness was finally revealed - though not yet to Carrie, who instead reached for the booze when her little daughter was taken into care.

Given what a dangerously irresponsible mother she's been, that wasn't too surprising, yet you still root for her as she becomes increasingly isolated from former colleagues and wonders who she can turn to for help. Better call Saul.

In Catastrophe (Channel 4), out-of-work Rob went for two job interviews that were as cringe-making as they were funny. And he also had a brilliant playground face-off with an uptight mother who claimed her son had been bitten by his. Sharon, meanwhile, made a bags out of a memorial for one of her fellow teachers.

There's still a lot of life in this subversively funny series.

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