Saturday 24 February 2018

Television: You can't bank on RTE during holiday weekends

Horrid climate: John Creedon's weather show was screened over the bank holiday weekend
Horrid climate: John Creedon's weather show was screened over the bank holiday weekend

John Boland

The weather was rubbish last bank holiday weekend and so were the RTE schedules, which largely consisted of repeats - mostly of programmes that hadn't been worth making in the first place.

Given the horrid climate on Monday, I suppose there was relevance in rescreening Creedon's Weather: Four Seasons in One Day (RTE1), or there would have been if the programme hadn't been such a dud when first shown last August, but I could detect no reason at all for prime-time reruns of Room to Improve, Give or Take Club, In Good Hands or The Speech.

Meanwhile, over on UTV Ireland, Pat Kenny in the Round was continuing on its bizarre way. Did I really want to watch this outstanding broadcaster wasting both his own talents and our time on a former member of Westlife who had invested in properties here, there and everywhere during the boom years and then ended up owing €23 million to lending institutions?

You and I have never had €23 million, or even €23,000, with which to gamble, yet the programme invited us to sympathise with Shane Filan's self-inflicted plight - the presenter adopting a tone of deep concern as he asked the "little lad from Sligo", who had made his stage debut "at the tender age of 12", how it had all gone wrong for him.

Oh, enough already. And I'm afraid I also found my tolerance tested by the IFTA Film and Drama Awards (TV3), in which presenters Louise Duffy and Eoghan Doherty fought a valiant but losing battle attempting to make a silk purse out of this particular sow's ear.

Host for the Mansion House red-carpet shenanigans was Caroline Morahan, who encapsulated the pervading self-congratulatory mood by praising her own dress. "A stunning gown," Caroline raved, "I love it so much." Then she told us who made it and in what shop she got it.

The guest list, though, was less than stunning. The only point of televised awards shows is to allow the viewer gawk at the famous, but there were none to be found here, unless you're of the view that celebrity heaven is populated by Miriam O'Callaghan, Stephen Rea, Amanda Byram, Sean Bean and Jim Sheridan. Could they not even get Graham Norton or Louis Walsh?

There was better diversion to be had in watching FIFA's Sepp Blatter deciding to get out ahead of the posse, while there was genuine sadness to be felt on listening to the tributes paid to Charles Kennedy, a man who had been beset by personal demons but who had always evinced an integrity not normally associated with politicians.

And so far, the British media have had no reason, either, to question the integrity of Kennedy's countrywoman Nicola Sturgeon, though the startling success of her Scottish National Party in the recent general election hasn't been warmly greeted by the right-wing press.

Indeed, a Daily Mail pre-election front-page headline provided the title for the Panorama profile, The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain (BBC1), though little sense of that dire verdict came through in reporter Shelley Jofre's mostly admiring account.

The admiration stemmed from the fact that both women came from the same part of Ayrshire and that Jofre's nationalist politician mother was a mentor to Sturgeon at the outset of the latter's career.

Spectator editor, Fraser Nelson, was on hand to predict that Sturgeon will cause David Cameron all sorts of headaches, though Tory veteran Michael Heseltine chose to disagree. He also dismissed Sturgeon's insistence that former SNP leader, Alex Salmond, "will never undermine me", Heseltine arguing that Salmond's continued presence was "not sustainable".

Sturgeon herself came across as friendly but guarded, stressing her "shy" nature while hinting at a steeliness that might well give Cameron the occasional migraine.

The week's main fun was provided by the opening instalment of The Syndicate (BBC1), written and directed by Kay Mellor, whose raucous Band of Gold saga about Bradford prostitutes was a big ratings winner in the 1990s.

Mellor clearly has a fondness for salt-of-the-earth characters, and though her plots are pure soap opera, she's a dab hand at rude dialogue, much in evidence during this third Syndicate series' first hour.

The premise in all three is that a group of people have won the lottery, and here, the beneficiaries are the staff who work at an aristocratic pile outside Scarborough.

Anthony Andrews channels some of Prince Charles's mannerisms into his portrayal of Lord Hazelwood, a decent old cove who's beset both by a recent stroke and by mounting debts, while Alice Kruge is plainly enjoying herself as his frightfully supercilious second wife.

There's also Lenny Henry as a mentally touched gardener, Melanie Hill as a seen-it-all cook, Daisy Head as a stroppy teenage skivvy and a cast of other immediately recognisable types, including a bunch of rich visiting Americans who "only come because they think they're in an episode of Downton Abbey". The episode ended with the staff suddenly £40 million richer.

It's very broad and silly stuff, but I got hooked all the same.

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