Tuesday 20 August 2019

Vogue's Wild Girls review: 'One of the most sensitively handled interviews I’ve ever seen with a condemned person’

Vogue's Wild Girls, RTE 2
* Toy Show Unwrapped, RTE One

Vogue Williams in a scene from RTE 2 documentary 'Wild Girls'
Vogue Williams in a scene from RTE 2 documentary 'Wild Girls'

There are several things which the TV critic should always bear in mind. For starters, you're always wrong.

No matter what your experience or the cogency of your argument, there will always be someone who sees an agenda where none exists - if only because most hacks have neither the time nor the inclination to care about their subjects one way or t'other.

TV presenters provide the telly, critics provide the critique and that is the extent of a relationship which, in any case, should always be more adversarial than cordial. Otherwise the reviewer - and this is a particular problem in a small territory such as Ireland - runs the very real risk of writing with the handbrakes on in case they bump into the person they have just written about.

Because this is such a parochial place, everyone knows someone and a negative review is often seen as nasty gossip rather than a clinical assessment of the programme on offer.

That happened recently when Herald TV scribe, Pat Stacey, was accused of misogyny following a less than laudatory review of some of the shows currently being made by Irish female presenters.

The women involved promptly went ballistic and their Twitter followers were quick to head off on another Twitch hunt.

However, I happen to broadly agree with his point, so does that make me a misogynist?

I only ask because I am curious and confused - if I'm indeed as sexist as Stacey apparently is (he's not, for the record), how come I think Vogue Williams is perhaps the most exciting new presenter in the country?

The former reality TV alum certainly ticks all the boxes for what should be self indulgent vanity programming - a model who made her name on a reality show and is even a DJ in her spare time which is surely the ultimate cliche for the modern moddull.

And yet, and yet.

Her last documentary, Vogue Does...Straight A's wasn't quite a revelation, but it was certainly a surprise. She came across as normal and affable and a decent sort - an increasingly rare find in a world of egos and entitlement.

Vogue's Wild Girls dealt with a meatier topic - guns, gangs and the death penalty in America. As the show progressed, we saw her speak to the usual cliched figures so beloved of liberal European documentaries - the tough-talking boot camp officer delivering a 'full metal racket', as she deftly put it, while she also went to a gun club and interviewed a charming and vaguely menacing gun lover.

Of course, Vogue is against guns, because everyone this side of the Atlantic is against guns.

What they fail to understand is that asking Americans to give up their firearm is a bit like expecting Europeans to suddenly start packing heat - both prospects are culturally alien to the respective populations.

But the episode was elevated beyond the average by her interview with Emelia Carr, America's youngest female death row prisoner.

Sentenced to death for the murder of her boyfriend's wife, Carr is a broken product of a broken society and while her crime was heinous, the fact that her boyfriend only received life for the same crime shows the disgusting, capricious disparity in sentencing when it comes to the death penalty - legal, judicial killing which remains the greatest stain on America's conscience.

With her model looks, this could have been a flimsy flim flam of hair-flicking frippery but was one of the most sensitively handled interviews I've ever seen with a condemned person.

It's inevitable that Williams will be compared to her Irish peers, but on the evidence of this programme, at least, she is more akin to BBC Three's excellent roving reporter Stacey Dooley.

Christmas doesn't really start until the Late Late Toy Show goes out - and then the madness begins in earnest. Toy Show Unwrapped was a clip show of the best and most memorable moments from down the years and was notable for the way the various shows seemed to reflect the mood of the time - particularly the wildly expensive gizmos of the Celtic Tiger era.

Best line, however, went to Dara O'Briain, who pointed out that: "Kids hate other kids being in the limelight."

That's very true, but in its own weird way, the Toy Show is not about the kids. It's about looking at the presenter's growing horror when they realise that the child they're talking to is an arrogant sociopath in the making.

As ne fule no, being an arrogant sociopath is the presenter's job...

Darragh McManus: Vogue Williams, it turns out, is pretty darn good at making pretty darn good television 

Irish Independent

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