Entertainment TV Reviews

Sunday 16 June 2019

Wingman review: 'It's me, myself and I with Baz in self-indulgent and interminable nonsense'

 

Baz Ashmawy on Wingman
Baz Ashmawy on Wingman
Making a drama: Jimmy Byrne and Baz Ashmawy in Wingman

John Boland

In Wingman (RTÉ1), Baz Ashmawy's declared mission is to meet people "with something missing from their lives and help them realise their dream".

And so he sees his latest series as "like that show in the 80s, Highway to Heaven, where your man went round helping everyone out".

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Anyway, in this week's first episode, Baz was in Togher, Co Louth, where middle-aged local farmer Jimmy Byrne wanted to put on a play he'd come across about two elderly guys trying to make a living off the land.

Why we wanted to put on this play wasn't really explained and nor was how Ashmawy - whose expertise, whatever it is, doesn't appear to be in drama - could help him out. But then it soon became clear that this was to be mainly a vehicle in which the presenter could hog the limelight - as he invariably does whenever RTÉ provides him with the readies to front such programmes.

"My whole career", he told us at one point, "has been me, me, me, me, me - that's how I make a living". And thus we had him grabbing the other role in this play for himself, while constantly telling us how he could be back in Dublin instead of being stuck with the "very loud noise" that was Jimmy.

There was no rhyme or reason to this self-indulgent and interminable nonsense, but then RTÉ increasingly commissions programmes that make no sense. Take Weather Live (RTÉ1), which ran on three successive nights this week and which smothered an interesting subject in such inane gimmicky that I caved in after Tuesday evening's opening hour.

The setting was the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin and maybe the glasshouse acoustics were to blame, though surely that could have been corrected, because the result was presenter Kathryn Thomas bellowing at us for the entire 60 minutes. I thought she was going to burst a lung.

Apart from that, the programme was all over the place, as if no one had bothered to think it out in advance. There were bits on Alcock and Brown's landing in the west of Ireland, on how weather affects birds and hang-gliders, on Storm Emma and the Beast from the East and on whether Henry Shefflin could hit a ball faster than gale-force winds.

Making a drama: Jimmy Byrne and Baz Ashmawy in Wingman
Making a drama: Jimmy Byrne and Baz Ashmawy in Wingman

There was also a performance poet striding along headlands while reciting her stuff and a reunion between a woman and the helicopter pilot who'd taken her to a maternity hospital from a snowbound house in the winter of 1982.

Along the way, Met Éireann's Gerald Fleming and Evelyn Cusack got to convey some actual weather-related information, but this tended to get lost among the surrounding twaddle. And meanwhile Kathryn kept bellowing.

Elsewhere, RTÉ is in search of Ireland's most loved folk song, though I'm not exactly sure why. Nor am I sure what constitutes a folk song, which I always assumed was carried down through generations of collective memory and was often of anonymous origin.

So does that allow the inclusion of 'On Raglan Road', originally written as a poem in the 1940s by Patrick Kavanagh? Apparently it does, and it also permits 'The Green Fields of France', written in the 1970s by Scottish-Australian songwriter Eric Bogle.

These two ditties featured in the first instalment of Ireland's Favourite Folk Song (RTÉ1), chosen from 15,000 submissions and with eight more songs battling for supremacy over the next four weeks.

The judging panel includes such round-up-the-usual pundits as historian Diarmaid Ferriter and archivist Catriona Crowe, the latter observing that Bogle's song about World War I casualties doesn't "encourage anger and rage - it encourages sadness and sorrow".

Actor Daragh O'Malley was also on hand to talk about Kavanagh's "unrequited love" for Hilda O'Malley, who had inspired his poem and "who happened to be my mother".

So what song will win out at the end? Say it isn't 'Danny Boy'.

Turas Cosnochta (RTÉ1), which translates as 'Barefoot Journey', came to its quiet two-part end on the morning after the night before - that night having been spent on a rigorous vigil by the fasting Lough Derg pilgrims who were in attendance.

We met some of them, both young and old, and earnestly sincere people they were, too, as were the priests who were ministering to their needs, and I felt a bit wistful about not wishing to belong to such a devoted gathering of believers.

The Adulterer (Channel 4) is a Dutch thriller drama in which feted photographer Iris embarks on an affair with hotshot lawyer Willem. Both are married and both of their families have troubles of their own, so the affair may turn out to have very unwelcome repercussions.

That's the basic set-up, anyway, though this week's opening episode was so clunky and clichéd that I don't feel compelled to see how it pans out. But if it somehow held your attention, the entire first season is available on All4.

You might also be intrigued by Bonding (Netflix), in which grad student Zoe finances her studies by moonlighting as a dominatrix. She also enlists gormless school pal Pete as her assistant.

It's all quite rude and explicit, though not as daring as it thinks it is, and if it's meant to be funny, I didn't find it so. But it has the virtue of brevity - none of its seven episodes lasts much longer than 15 minutes, so that's a plus. Someone should tell Baz Ashmawy.

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