Yvonne Keating dispenses advice to a single mum on RTE's 'The Family Project'
Ed Power reviews the final episode of RTE One series, 'The Family Project' featuring Yvonne Keating
We don't usually look to A-listers for advice on how to smoothly conduct our personal lives. When it comes to familial harmony, especially, it surely isn't controversial to suggest that celebs are in no position to dispense pointers – if anything they are proof that, though wealth and privilege may afford you the best restaurant tables and grandest hotel suites, they can't buy happiness.
So it was surprising and rather poignant to see Yvonne Keating, divorced wife of Ronan, parachuted into the life of single mother Andrea and her sons Dylan (8) and Cameron (3) in the final episode of The Family Project. So poised you could almost feel the tension crackle around her, Keating made for an unlikely lifestyle guru – and though her kind intentions shone throughout, you wondered to what degree a glamorous ex-model could empathize with a single parent household from what looked a quite ordinary part of Kilkenny.
Then maybe that was the point: Yvonne and Andrea may have lived in different worlds but, responsible for raising their families on their own, the programme asked us to consider how much they had in common (Yvonne has three kids, Jack, 15, Missy, 13, and nine year old Ali). And while you sensed Keating hadn't signed up for any on-screen blubbing, at moments her reserve slipped. The most telling came as she took a walk with Dylan, a piece of stagey shtick that revealed more than was probably intended.
"Do you have a husband?," he asked, with a probing innocence of which only children are capable. "I was married for about 12 years," she responded, the stiltedness falling away. "Then… a couple of years ago….we're not married now…" The silence that followed echoed like a sob.
As is widely known (though presumably not by the tigger-ish Dylan) her relationship with Ronan Keating unraveled after he confessed to an affair. There was hurt but also, you imagine, wounded pride on her part – and it was brave of her to address, however phlegmatically, the break-up on camera.
Elsewhere, The Family Project suffered for lack of focus. It was never exactly clear what difficulties Keating was supposed to be solving. Andrea explained her sons weren't getting along – though there was little bad blood in evidence in scenes of them tussling on the couch and rowing about whose turn it was on Xbox. They came across as perfectly ordinary boys and their "problems" seemed banal, certainly nothing so serious as to require the urgent intervention of a top celeb.
Confusing matters was their mother's wish to return to education (she'd left school shortly before falling pregnant aged 19). It was a big decision and you wished her well – yet felt only tenuously connected to the sibling angst she'd reached out for assistance with. Not that Keating had any silver bullets anyway: the best she could suggest was that the family work together on a 'Life Book': a scrap binder of baby pics, ultrasound scans etc intended to remind all involved how precious they were to one another. If the issues were really as profound as Andrea suggested, it was like applying a sticking plaster to a gunshot wound.
Still, by then The Family Project had won you over. As is often the case with reality television, it wasn't about the punters whose lives we had interrupted – it was about the celebrity deigning to swoosh to their rescue. A household face for going on 20 years, Keating has nonetheless always cut an inscrutable figure. Here, we were afforded a peek behind the curtain and, if she was mostly a picture of brittle self assurance, those fleeing instances when the composure cracked spoke volumes.