Ian O'Doherty on television
Pageants not welcome here: Down with this sort of thing
The Irish Child Pageant Storm
As Monday night's thoroughly bizarre fly-on-the-wall followed pageant organiser Annette Hill across the highways, by-ways and abandoned industrial estates of Ireland looking for a venue prepared to host her event, it was a welcome reminder of just what a conservative country we are. The chattering classes may take pride in throwing off the yoke of Catholic dogma, but they've simply replaced the belt of the crosier for the disapproving pursed lips of the liberal prude.
As this frequently jaw-dropping insight into the rather terrifying mind of the organiser quickly showed, both Hill and her sidekick, Mickie Wood -- who looks a bit like Stevie Nicks after a particularly hard night, which these days means she just looks a bit like Stevie Nicks -- seemed to land in Dublin Airport with all the grim determination of an advance scouting party deep in bandit country.
And, as the subsequent hour proved, their fears were well-founded.
The biggest clashes, and by far the most entertaining footage, came from an increasingly paranoid Hill and Mickie as they quickly began to learn that sometimes they are, indeed, out to get you.
In fact, it is a testament to Hill and her burning desire to see kids in sequins that she carried on regardless, and there was an undoubtedly Carry On element to their farcical attempts to grasp our obviously foreign ways -- though the scene where she confused Castleblayney for Casablanca is probably the highest compliment ever paid to that place. Or ever will be.
But what became notable was that despite the very best efforts of the programme-makers, there was simply no way in hell that Hill was ever going to be mistaken for a likeable person.
From her remarks about Ireland and the number of sheep she was expecting to see, she didn't seem to realise that despite all the cliches she had in her head, she was the offensive stereotype -- a big, loud, obnoxious and aggressively friendly Yank who comes over here and insults the size of people's houses, which she promptly did.
And in her blundering, ferocious determination to hold the pageant somewhere, anywhere, she seemed to confuse the PR strategy of hearts and minds for wearing people's balls as earrings, so sympathy was not a natural reaction.
Yet sympathy there was. There was no sinister plan, because she seemed incapable of planning anything, even admitting at one point that she was turning up to a meeting a bit "funky" because she hadn't had a chance to shower or brush her hair.
But as thoroughly deluded as the participants undoubtedly were, they were essentially harmless, vaguely pathetic souls who seemed a bigger menace to themselves than to anyone else.
Would you let your kids enter a pageant? Probably not -- but I know plenty of people who don't want their kids going to Mass, taking up boxing or competing in the ferocious hothouse of schools rugby. That doesn't mean they have the right to stop other parents doing exactly that.
Under the Dome
The first season of the Stephen King adaptation finished on Thursday, and when the second season returns the Dome will still be there. Which is more than can be said for the viewer.
Sinn Fein- Who Are They?
Two things struck me about Ursula Halligan's typically slick exploration of where those lovely Shinners come from.
First, there was the sight of Gerry Adams striding the Cooley Mountains like some vaguely psychopathic hillwalker. At one point, he even seemed to mimic the closing credits of Alan Partridge, where the great man leans against a rural gate and sighs contentedly. Not so much "A-ha!" as "A-Raah!"
Then there was the beautifully sly shot of Mary Lou McDonald discussing the impact the hunger strikers had on her as a child -- while standing in front of the meat section in a supermarket.
For a party that likes to pride itself on its ability to manipulate the "mainstream" media, this was a comical mistake -- when talking about "brave men" who starved themselves to death, it's probably better to stay away from a shelf full of chops.
Still, it could have been far worse for Mary Lou -- the producers could have had her discussing their dirty protest as she stood in front of the toiletries.