Friday 15 November 2019

Collins, cold cases and financial gurus – it's coma-inducing TV

Big Fella: We learnt nothing new about Michael Collins from RTÉ's 'Great Irish Journeys' documentary
Big Fella: We learnt nothing new about Michael Collins from RTÉ's 'Great Irish Journeys' documentary

John Boland

In Taking Care of Business (RTÉ One), our national broadcaster continues its dual task of telling small firms where they're going wrong while furthering the media careers and augmenting the bank balances of the financial gurus who are doing the telling.

The gurus in Taking Care of Business are two blokes I'd never heard of called Sean Dunne and Tommy Murphy, and all I learned from the voiceover at the start of the first episode was that they were "financial troubleshooters". The upshot was that I spent the entire programme echoing Butch and Sundance's bewildered query about the mysterious posse in constant pursuit of them: who are these guys?

RTÉ's website wasn't much more helpful, merely informing me that Sean and Tommy were "experienced chartered accountants", though I suppose that's preferable to being inexperienced chartered accountants. Anyway, Sean and Tommy's initial assignment was to sort out James Fegan, whose food delivery business was in hock to the bank for more than €3m, and among the tactics they used was to interview James for his own job, asking him why he deserved to hold on to it.

He failed the interview, not least because, in Tommy's opinion, he was "all over the shop". Tommy also informed him that "leadership is doing the right things and management is doing things in the right way". I'm not quite sure what that meant and James didn't seem too sure, either, and he seemed a bit bemused, too, when Tommy assured him that "the most important person in life is you. That's what Sean and I do – we help people to help themselves".

That didn't stop the bank taking over James's warehouse halfway through the programme, but the rousing speech did encourage him to get back on the road and reacquaint himself with his customers – and maybe get away from Sean and Tommy's therapy-babble as well.

Anyway, by the end Sean was confident that James's head was "in the right place", while James himself optimistically declared that "the future's going to be awesome". However, the programme never got round to explaining how exactly his business works. That, I guess, would have been too much to ask.

And it seems too much to ask of Great Irish Journeys (RTÉ One) that it stops making viewers fall into a coma. In the opening episode, RTÉ broadcaster Grainne Seoige moped interminably about the Famine; in the second, RTÉ broadcaster Evelyn O'Rourke droned on about a trip to Sligo taken by some chieftain or other; while in the latest, RTÉ DJ John Creedon lounged in the back of a chauffeur-driven, open-topped 1920s jalopy as it crawled through the back roads of west Cork.

He was there to retrace the last journey of Michael Collins and if I never see another documentary about the Big Fella, especially one as ineffably lethargic as this, it will be too soon. And just as Seoige's and O'Rourke's qualifications for fronting their programmes remained obscure, Creedon's credentials here amounted to nothing more than the fact that, like his subject, he hailed from Cork.

And thus I sat there while he informed me that Collins was "so young, you know", that he had "a huge amount on his plate", that he was "probably very tired" when he made the trip to west Cork, and that on the day of his murder "the morning dawned clear and bright". Useful to get that learnt.

The questions he posed were enthralling, too. "Was Collins tempting fate?" (Yes). "What can Michael Collins's last day tell me about the man?" (Nothing we hadn't known before). As for why the under-fire Collins left the cover of the protective armoured car: "Was it inexperience, hubris or tiredness? We'll never know". (Indeed we won't.)

The question left unexplained by Cracking Crime: Cold Cases (RTÉ One), which concerned the fatal 1998 assault on widowed Mayo shopowner Eddie Fitzmaurice by thieving thugs, was simple: why exactly am I watching this? Fifteen years later, I couldn't see the point of this chronicle of an unsolved crime – except to put the fear of God yet again into elderly people who are living on their own.

The 90-minute BBC4 drama, Burton and Taylor, was a complete letdown. I've always had a special fondness for Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West is a winning actor, too, but they never persuaded as the estranged celebrity couple reuniting in 1983 for a production of Noel Coward's Private Lives.

More interesting, if overlong, was Cleopatra: The Film that Changed Hollywood (also BBC4), in which the various calamities that attended the making of that overblown 1962 epic were recalled by some of their participants and their offspring. And the same channel's The Burton Diaries gave due credit to the actor's flair as a writer. I've been reading the diaries recently and they're notable for their learning, their linguistic elegance and their poisonous vignettes of colleagues and rivals.

Irish Independent

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