Tuesday 24 April 2018

Irish X-Files: the truth is out there

"Even Bram Stoker was at least partly inspired by tales of a cholera epidemic in Sligo"

Unxplained Ireland


forget about Paddy's Day, Guinness and books about having a rubbish childhood being Ireland's greatest cultural export. It is, and as long as kids want an excuse to eat enough sweets to give themselves diabetes, always will be, Halloween.

Hell, even Bram Stoker was at least partly inspired by tales of a cholera epidemic in Sligo which saw the living buried alongside the dead.

Put simply, Ireland deserves a documentary that will explore the rich depths of horrific tales of its lore. And following Monday's foray into the Halloween season, the viewer would surely be correct in saying... Ireland deserves a documentary that will explore the rich depths of horrific tales of lore.

UnXplained Ireland – honestly, the spelling makes it look like a support group for the terminally bewildered – was one of those strange documentaries that TV3 specialises in and even though some of the segments were stitched together with as much finesse as Frankenstein's monster's head, it was also a piece of chutzpah that could never be accused of taking itself too seriously.

You haven't made it as a country home until you have your own ghost. So it proved in Leixlip where we saw Ireland's very own Mulder and Scully, Keith and Angie Freeland from the quite wonderfully named Paranormal Troubleshooters International, swoop on an unfortunate castle and promptly inform us that, yes, there were ghosts and there had even been a battle in its grounds. Which is pretty much par for the course with castles, I would have thought.

The Freelands were quickly back dealing with another case of unearthly goings-on with the O'Loughlin family, who were spooked by unearthly forces in their house.

So unearthly were these forces that we were even treated to some reconstructions of such terrifying sights as a Crunchy Easter egg demonically hurled across the coffee table, presumably indicating that the ghoul was lactose intolerant. Or, at the very least, he just really didn't like Crunchies.

As such shows like to say, you decide... the entire first half could have been binned to make room for what ended up as bullet-point session on the impact of the tradition of Halloween on America, while a sporadically diverting item on Kilkenny's mysterious witch, Alice Kyteler, merits a full programme in itself. But I shouldn't be too hard on the Freelands – at one stage in her paranormal pondering, Angie claimed to feel a threatening female presence in the room called Sarah. You and me both, Angie.


Sky Atlantic, Wednesday

When Armando Iannucci decided to turn his genius for savage political satire Stateside, even his most ardent admirers wondered whether it could be done.

And, in truth, there were moments in the first season of Veep, his take on the redundancy and existential ennui that comes with being vice president, when it simply looked like another shiny comedy candidate without a mandate.

But the second season has turned into a leaner, meaner political machine as Veep, Selina Meyer, (played with typical uncomfortable relish by Julia Louise Dreyfus) aims her barbs ever darker.

The supporting cast of aides has become even more dysfunctional; the addition of the great Gary Cole as the sinister, Rove-esque strategist is a masterstroke; and the inescapable sense that Veep is satirising the pomposity of Aaron Sorkin's West Wing as the one on Pennsylvania Avenue makes it all the more bitchily delightful.

Quitting the English Defense League – When Tommy met Mo

BBC1, Monday

When former EDL leader Tommy Robinson decided to shoot a documentary with Muslim activist Mo Anser, things were always going to be fraught.

But one poignant image lingers in the laughter bank. By the end of the programme, Robinson has moved on to newer Muslim friends and turned his back on Mo, who we last see wandering sadly into the London streets after being barred from a Robinson press conference.

Come on Tommy, give yer old mucker Mo a call. After all, as everyone on the programme kept saying, when not shouting at each other, it's good to talk.

Irish Independent

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