Entertainment TV & Radio

Sunday 17 December 2017

Creedon's Irish road trip: more clichés than rare oul' times . . .

RTE's John Creedon
RTE's John Creedon

Last summer, John Creedon took viewers on an extended road trip around Ireland, and the result was like being trapped in the drawing room of the couple next door while the husband gave a running commentary on their seemingly interminable holiday slide show.

Clearly, though, the series met with approval within RTÉ because now the radio dj has embarked on the four-part Creedon's Cities (RTÉ One), which over the next few weeks will take him to Cork, Galway and Limerick but which began by considering our largest metropolis.

"One of Cork's favourite sons gets under the skin of the capital" was the continuity announcer's introductory assurance, but in the event he did no such thing, eschewing insights in favour of clichés and codology, the latter at its most tiresomely buffoonish when he attempted to evoke Georgian ways by garbing himself in 18th-Century costume -- the effect of which, as he strolled self-consciously along the street, was to make him look like Robbie Coltrane's Dr Johnson in Blackadder the Third.

Meanwhile, the clichés kept coming. Dublin, we learned, was "a city of writers and rebels" in which "the love of language and literature is legendary", though the only writer mentioned was James Joyce, who, we were assured, "is not that inaccessible really".

But the film's real problem was that the clichés were more than just verbal, and so we were subjected to potted histories of such obvious subjects as the Liffey, the Custom House, St Michan's and the 1916 Rising, none of these trite mini-lectures conveying any indication that this amiable Corkonian was capable of bringing a fresh eye to our capital or even had anything quirky to say about it.

Indeed, at the end he was reduced to musing that "cities, just like people, are organic -- they keep on changing". For this I spent an hour of my time?

Clichés also abounded in Who Do You Think You Are USA? (RTÉ One), in which American actor Martin Sheen went in search of his Irish and Spanish roots. Here the clichés were all about Martin himself, who narrator Paul Connolly kept reminding us was a tireless human rights campaigner and advocate of social justice -- and never mind that the sainted star's dentistry has the disconcerting effect of making him resemble a chipmunk.

In Dublin, Martin discovered that his mother's brother had been imprisoned for taking de Valera's side in the Civil War -- leading the narrator to remark that "Uncle Michael, a member of the IRA, landed in jail for his beliefs, just like Martin himself".

Indeed, the actor was plainly thrilled at the notion of this freedom-fighting relative and even more thrilled when he got to Spain and learned that his father's brother had been locked up for fighting against Franco.

Yet there was something a bit odd about Martin's reactions. "Wow," he kept saying, along with "Boy, oh boy" and "I had no idea", as if all these revelations had completely blindsided him, but surely an intelligent, inquiring man who has spent a considerable amount of his time in both Ireland and Spain already knew some of these things.

In these family-quest programmes, however, the celebrity at the centre of them usually behaves as if he's constantly thunderstruck by what he's being told.

By the same token, celebrities who volunteer to undertake arduous journeys must pretend that they're doing something really perilous -- when in fact they're accompanied by an unmentioned camera crew who are probably much more at risk from the elements.

And so in World's Most Dangerous Roads (BBC Two), Irish comedian Ed Byrne and English counterpart Andy Parsons (both of them regulars on Mock the Week) had to feign more apprehension than they probably felt when journeying across a Siberian highway, which claimed the lives of so many forced labourers when it was built in the 1930s that it became known as The Road of Bones.

Byrne, though, was an especially affable companion and approached his task in the right spirit, declaring: "I just think it's going to be an adventure -- a proper, old-school adventure." And so it turned out to be.

The first instalment of Truckers (RTÉ One) was less about the mechanics of lorry-driving than about Ireland's current economic catastrophe. The two men who were featured were both in the removal business and their talk was largely about the country's woes -- returned Dublin emigrant Don taking up his line of work when all else failed, and Naas-based Aubrey wryly reflecting that part of the reason he's succeeding is because of other people's misfortunes.

He was speaking in particular of Kaari and Liz who, along with their children, have been forced to emigrate to Kaari's native Canada. Meanwhile, Don's Bulgarian wife, whom he met in San Francisco, is restless here and she spoke of a possible move to Australia. "We'll see how it goes," Don said somewhat glumly.

On Nationwide (RTÉ One), Anne Cassin had the bright idea of taking writer Colm Tóibín around his native Enniscorthy. He proved to be an absorbing guide to the town, which should encourage the presenter to stroll through Wexford with John Banville, Galway with Rita Ann Higgins and Clones with Patrick McCabe.

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