Saturday 20 January 2018

Humdrum schedule is like ghost of Christmas past

Surprises are supposed to be, well, surprising, but the Christmas schedulers out in RTE clearly have their own definition of the term.

And so, more than three weeks in advance, they're able to tell the nation that on St Stephen's Day comedian PJ Gallagher will be hosting 'The Great Big Surprise Party' for Finglas woman Betty Maher, who has spent four decades doing sterling voluntary work for her local old folks' group.

No doubt Betty's a lovely person and well deserving of this tribute, but where's the surprise? Maybe PJ Gallagher will say or do something funny – that certainly would be unexpected, as would the prospect of encountering hilarity from 'Mrs Brown's Boys', of which RTE is providing a double helping for connoisseurs of Brendan O'Carroll's Dublin matriarch.

There's little else to surprise viewers over the Christmas period, which concludes with Miriam O'Callaghan ringing in the new year and officially launching The Gathering, when billions of emigrants will take a nostalgic trip back to the oul sod and solve our debt problems. That's the plan anyway.

Not a lot of planning seems to have gone into the rest of the Christmas fare, with more than 90 already much-seen movies filling most of the programming, though there's the odd documentary that might reward attention.

Those who can remember Shay Healy's 'Nighthawks' when it was first aired might be intrigued by 'Nighthawks Rehashed' (December 29), which revisits various highlights, including the Sean Doherty interview that revealed Charlie Haughey's involvement in the infamous phone-tapping scandal.

Then there's 'Joe Dolan: Sweet Little Rock and Roller' (December 28) for those who just can't get enough documentaries about the Mullingar warbler.

And despite RTE's lamentable comedy record, Brendan and Domhnall Gleeson are teaming up with Amy Huberman and Robert Sheehan for a one-sketch show called 'Raheny Immaturity'. It has to be better than its title.

Irish Independent

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