Tuesday 12 December 2017

How do these business gurus find time to run their own businesses?

Irish entrepreneurs are never out of work, thanks mainly to RTé. The general economy may be in tatters, but there seems no end to the broadcasting jobs available to publicity-seeking moguls who like to dispense financial advice and largesse to the less fortunate.

In Feargal Quinn's Retail Therapy, the supermarket senator offers friendly but firm counsel to owners of outlets that aren't blessed with his inimitable business flair. In At Your Service, the Brennan brothers bring a touch of camp theatrics to their scrutiny of ailing B&Bs and bars. In The Secret Millionaire, we're asked to gasp at the generosity of not-so-secret benefactors toward the deserving needy, while in Dragons' Den, five pillars of financial acumen preen and snicker as they decide on the fate of various entrepreneurial hopefuls.

And now we have The Takeover (RTé Two), in which former dragon Norah Casey supplements the fruits of her magazine empire – not to mention the income she derives from her RTé One afternoon show and her Newstalk morning programme – by offering her wisdom to the employees of various struggling enterprises.

How does she find the time? Well, in The Takeover she's not exactly stretched, her role largely confined to that of listener as the staff are given a fortnight's chance to run things more profitably than the owner has managed.

This week's staff belonged to the Ultimate Hair and Beauty Salon, which occupies the Princes Street corner of the Henry Street arcade and is run by Des Murray, who in Norah's estimation was not only a "really nice man" but also a "great guy". His cheerful and affable employees seemed to think so, too – one young stylist deeming him "the closest thing to my dad".

But business could be a lot better and so Norah convened a staff meeting, with the narrator confiding "they have no idea what is about to happen". Clearly, though, they'd some idea that something was happening, or why else would there be a television crew running around the salon?

Then Norah let them at it for a fortnight, having told them to avail of social media, which Norah was convinced was the way to go. So they did that, making YouTube videos and suchlike, and at the end of an almost interminable 55 minutes Norah asked Des for his verdict.

He didn't seem especially ecstatic and the viewer never learnt whether the salon had attracted more customers, but what the heck, at least the series is providing Norah ("the best in the business", according to the voiceover) with yet another media outlet, thereby demonstrating that every recessionary cloud has a silver lining.

Following on from a pilot show that I managed to miss last year, Six in the City (RTé Two) throws together three couples whom the series makers deem to be "socially incompatible" and asks each couple to arrange a night out for all of them, with marks awarded by the invitees at the end of the night.

This format has more than a passing resemblance to Come Dine with Me, even down to the voiceover of producer Trevor Keegan, which tries without success to emulate the tart putdowns of Come Dine with Me's Dave Lamb.

The series is painfully contrived nonsense, as foodie couple Mona and Ron seemed to realise in the early stages of this week's opener – Mona in particular wearing the glazed expression of someone who hadn't quite reckoned what she was getting herself into and wondering how she might possibly get out.

And that was even before Aaron invited the other two couples into his Belfast home and serenaded them while attired only in his wife's skimpy pink knickers before dispensing with such modesty altogether. Oh, what fun times are to be had up North.

"Kinda cringeworthy" was the verdict of Sam from Naas concerning this creepy stunt, while all Ron could manage was a bewildered "What the heck is going on here?" This hapless viewer echoed both utterances.

Halfway through Michael Cockrell's absorbing Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise (BBC Two), its subject moaned "this programme was such a bad idea", but the really bad idea had been his decision to appear on the previous morning's The Andrew Marr Show (BBC One), where he was annihilated by Marr's stand-in, Eddie Mair.

Mair put much the same questions – about sexual infidelities, lies, making up quotes and abetting a pal who wanted a journalist beaten up – to Johnson as Cockrell did, but with such quietly lethal force that Johnson was left reeling and bumbling. And he had no reply at all to Mair's two most devastating observations: "You're a nasty piece of work, aren't you?" and "What should viewers make of your inability to give a straight answer to a straight question?"

He was evasive to Cockrell, too, while overall the carefully honed persona of a jolly, well intentioned, harmless chap took something of a hammering.

No Time to Die (RTé One), which concerned how families cope with grievously afflicted babies, was a hard but worthwhile watch, leaving the viewer marvelling at the stoicism and resilience of parents who are confronted by such difficult, indeed heartbreaking, circumstances. Happily, by the end of Garry Keane's tactful film, three of the four children had survived, even if precariously.

Irish Independent

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