Saturday 20 January 2018

From bed to worse at RTÉ

IF you find yourself in bed with the Irish, you'll quickly fall asleep. That was the lesson I learned from RTÉ Two's programme of the same name, which was so boring that within 10 minutes it had me yearning for the land of nod.

There were eight couples interviewed, all of them propped up against their pillows and addressing a camera facing them from the ends of their respective beds -- a visual set-up so unvarying that it became intensely tedious.

Maybe that wouldn't have mattered so much if the couples had anything of the remotest interest to say, but then what's to be said about going to bed -- or said honestly, anyway?

And so we heard that John always puts a glass of water on his bedside table but hardly ever drinks it, whereas wife Alison does drink hers. Anne, for her part, likes a milky coffee before slipping between the covers, while Ailbhe hits the sack 20 minutes before hubby Michael, who's always "faffing around".

I'm dozing off as I write this but for the record, Glenn can't fall asleep unless he's facing the wall, Ailbhe doesn't mind which side she's on, Darragh steals the duvet all the time, while Alison gets so wrapped in hers that it becomes her personal toga.

Even their sex lives were boring -- at least for the viewer -- who learned from Alison that the "initial frenzy fades away" (leaving hubby John to weakly assert that it's "still good"), from Darragh that sex with Steph is "regular" if not "rampant" any more, and from Dee that the best sex she ever had was with Rory, which was probably just as well, given that he was lying beside her as she said it.

The remainder of the pillow talk concerned such matters as the pros and cons of having a television in the bedroom; the impact of children in the next room on sexual desire; the upsides and downsides of familiarity; and the role of fantasy in spicing up routine relationships -- though nothing spicy got said in a film that probably seemed a good idea at the concept stage but turned out to be a snore-inducing dud.

By contrast, you couldn't take your eyes off Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (Channel 4), though that was mostly to convince yourself you weren't seeing things. Diamantes Are Forever was the subtitle of this opening programme in a new series and it was hard to credit the outfits being sported by Irish Traveller girls and young women for their Holy Communion and wedding days.

Bride-to-be Dolores arrived at the pre-wedding festivities dresssed as a giant pineapple while her sister opted for the palm tree look, with Liverpudlian dress designer Thelma describing the commission as "the most outrageous request we've ever had". By outrageous she meant "brilliant" and the effect was certainly eye-catching.

Meanwhile, nine-year-old First Holy Communicant Margaret was intent on outdoing cousins Nangirl and Bridget in fashionable bling.

"I'm going to be the best, like a princess," she vowed. "They're going to be like the ugly sisters."

However, it was exuberance rather than rancour that reigned and that won the viewer's affection.

I'm not sure, though, about the motives of the film, which simply asked us to gawk at these girls as if they were creatures from another planet -- unlike Henry McKean's inquiringly affectionate TV3 film on the same topic a couple of years back. Here, however, there was no spirit of inquiry and no attempt to provide any historical or social context.

Indeed, the film-makers seemed entirely uninterested in anything that might explain the extravagant sartorial yearnings of these girls, while such humdrum matters as where the money came from to pay for the clothes, the limos, the receptions and the travelling from England to Ireland and back didn't seem to enter anyone's head.

Nor was any explanation offered as to why almost all the males glimpsed in the film had their faces digitally blurred out. All very odd.

A couple of years ago, BBC4 ran a wonderfully informative and entertaining series called The Secret Life of Airports, while an absorbing documentary on Pan Am featured on the same channel a few weeks ago.

RTÉ, alas, deems Irish airports to be of such marginal interest that it relegates the subject to three half-hour films broadcast in the early evening through the medium of Irish. And then, if one can judge from the initial Aerfort (RTÉ One), it makes a further bags of it by focusing on glib social observations and twee anecdotes rather than on anything informative or substantial.

In this opening episode, we heard that although Cork Airport "was born of humble beginnings" it brought such "glitz and glamour" to the city that the people of Cork are "very proud" of it. That was as good as it got.

At the outset of Jo Brand on Kissing (BBC4), the comedian told us that "there's far too much kissing going on these days, especially in public". She then spent a pointless 60 minutes rabbiting on about it, though at least she refrained from demonstrating her own mouth-to-mouth techniques, for which much thanks.

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