Sunday 15 September 2019

Vogue banks on motherhood while Lucy begs us not to switch off...

Tandem for one: Vogue Williams in Denmark for Going It Alone
Tandem for one: Vogue Williams in Denmark for Going It Alone

John Boland

I learned quite a lot while watching Vogue: Going It Alone (RTÉ2), which concerned the growing number of women opting for single motherhood via sperm banks and other anonymous forms of conception.

I learned, for instance, that although Vogue was no longer married (to ex-Westlife singer Brian McFadden) she was "really happy" in her current relationship. However, her biological clock was now "ticking" and she wanted to have children. Indeed, this was "one of life's biggest decisions: whether to have kids and when to have them".

But, as she pointed out, "to have a baby you need sperm", so off she went to Denmark, a "weirdly clean" place where the men were "absolute rides" and where "I'm going to be surrounded in sperm".

Surrounded by surely, Vogue, but anyway what she meant that she was visiting a Danish sperm bank that had already provided the raw material for 1,500 babies in Ireland and 60,000 worldwide.

She also visited Ed, a pudgy, middle-aged guy in the Netherlands, who provided brief no-strings-attached sexual encounters for women who wanted to get pregnant. Why anyone would wish to conceive a child with Ed puzzled both myself and Vogue. As for the foreplay that might be involved, Vogue confided (somewhat extraneously, I thought): "My sister's a lesbian and she would definitely not want to be touching willy."

What all this added up to remained unclear. Vogue herself is a personable presenter, as has been evident from other documentaries she's hosted, yet, though some interesting ethical and biological points were made here, there was a titillatory aspect to the film that undercut her earnest enquiries.

In this week's Living with Lucy (TV3), earnest enquiry seemed a very tenuous reason for spending three days in the home of Katie Hopkins, the English "media personality" who has made a name for herself with her noxious views on race and other matters.

"I understand why she's so hated", Lucy said at the outset, confiding also that some of Hopkins's views "have disgusted me", but as soon as she entered the premises, it was back to her familiar ecstatic mode: "I love your house! I love your kitchen! It's gorgeous!"

Maybe something got said as the programme neared its end, but after spending 30 minutes in the company of this awful, publicity-loving bigot I decided to leave her to Lucy. "Don't turn off your tellies just yet", the presenter had pleaded near the outset. Well, I gave it half an hour.

In the second episode of Acceptable Risk (RTÉ1), a Montreal police chief pondered the murder of Sarah's husband: "A dead American working out of Ireland for a Swiss company, whose death in Canada excites the interest of the German security services. Quite a headache". Indeed.

Back in Dublin, Sarah was also trying to make sense of it all, declaring of her dead hubby: "If I don't know who he was, how do I know who I am anymore?" The viewer, meanwhile, simply didn't know what was going on.

Still, there was lots of dodgy acting to be savoured, some of it perpetrated by performers capable of much better - Elaine Cassidy's Sarah managing only two facial expressions: woebegone and very cross. Meanwhile, Risteárd Cooper's security chief spent the entire episode in a coma, maybe from reading the script.

Dermot Bannon and the Big Build (RTÉ1) wasn't about Dermot Bannon at all except that Bannon is RTÉ's favourite, indeed only, architect and thus must get his name into the title of anything he presents.

Here he was fronting a film about the creation of the new Royal College of Surgeons building off St Stephen's Green, and it was all a bit of a love-in as he introduced construction director Carol Smillie ("one of my oldest friends") and Peter McGovern ("one of the most demanding architects around").

They obviously knew what they were doing, even if for much of the time the viewer hadn't a clue what was going on. According to city council regulations, four of the 10 storeys had to be underground, but what exactly this entailed wasn't made clear.

Instead, there were the usual clichés about looming deadlines and on-site tensions, all intended to provide a degree of excitement, but in truth, the film was deadly dull. The finished building looked great, though.

Boris Johnson came to the attention of most people when guesting more than a decade ago on Have I Got News for You, where his buffoonish posh boy act was quite endearing.

Since then, though, his talent to amuse has worn very thin and he was probably more instrumental than anyone else in pushing Britain into its current Brexit debacle - even if the agenda there was typically self-serving.

In Boris Johnson: Blond Ambition (Channel 4), a camera crew followed the now foreign secretary around the world, recording his every U-turn and gaffe - including his public recitation in Myanmar of Kipling's colonialist poem, 'On the Road to Mandalay', while the ambassador tried to get him to shut up.

Various toadying Tories were also interviewed, almost all of them sucking up to Johnson, whom they plainly regard as the next prime minister. Theresa May will rue the day she gave him a cabinet job.

Colonialism is also at the heart of new drama series The Last Post (BBC1), which concerns the British occupation of Aden (now Yemen) in the 1960s. It's well scripted and acted, even if some of the points being made seem overly weighted with hindsight, as in "I think torture is the best recruiting sergeant for terrorists".

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