Friday 17 November 2017

John Boland: Euro woes, political angst . . . and hard times for porn stars

John Boland

'There are limits to how much people will take", George Lee declared halfway through Ireland Outside the Euro (RTÉ One). As it happened, I had just been thinking the same about programmes such as George's -- RTÉ's umpteenth analysis of the fix we're in, how we got to this sorry state and what, if anything, we can do about it.

Not that TV3 was doing anything to lift the national mood, which had sunk into a slough of despond after a performance by the Irish soccer team that was even more dismal than the economic science being expounded by George -- who, incidentally, finally came to the conclusion that, all things considered, we should probably stay with the euro as the lesser of two evils.

TV3's contribution to our overall woes took the form of Ireland's Depression Epidemic, in which a solemnly subdued Ray D'Arcy told us that about 400,000 people in this country are afflicted by this illness and that our current financial woes are merely exacerbating the situation.

This film, the first in a series, certainly didn't help to lift the spirits -- not because of the subject matter, but because it was both a sluggish and a careless trawl through the testimonies of three depressed women, whose stories were too alike to make any of them especially interesting, and of one man who has spent most of his life battling bipolar disorder.

Towards the end we learned that the man had a successful career in the civil service and that the husband of one of the women had lost his job, but information that might have lent context and, indeed, a modicum of interest was generally lacking -- two of the women's spouses not only weren't seen but weren't even mentioned, while we never learned if the bipolar man had a wife or partner or children.

It was as if their lives were being lived in an isolated vacuum and were solely defined by the depressions that afflicted them, which can't have been the case. But with no reference to the support or otherwise of family members -- indeed, with no mention even of what two of the women did for a living -- the film failed damagingly to engage with the viewer.

In its closing stages, D'Arcy's commentary became noticeably, and somewhat glibly, upbeat, and he concluded with the "good news" that most people who are suffering from depression "deal with it and go on to lead full lives". In other words, nothing to get too concerned about. So what was the point of the film?

The point of Murdoch, Cameron and the £8bn Deal, a Dispatches report from Channel 4, wasn't too clear, either, beyond serving as yet another reminder that if politicians want to keep their reputations intact they should stay a million miles away from media moguls.

There was nothing new in Peter Oborne's chronicle of how the British prime minister's schmoozings with Rupert Murdoch and his flame-haired minion has brought him nothing but unwelcome headlines, but his account of how Tory policy shifted from holding the Murdoch empire at arm's length to fervently embracing its every commercial whim still had the power to appal.

In Louis Theroux: Twilight of the Porn Stars (BBC Two), the faux-naif reporter returned to the San Fernando sex industry he'd first chronicled in 1997, only to discover that all had changed for the worse in America's heartland of smut.

Last time around, he'd met Chet, otherwise known as top porn performer Jon Dough, but in the interim the sex star had killed himself, leaving Louis to catch up with his spouse and charming little daughter and to solemnly reflect on the price to be paid "for taking the most intimate human act and putting it on camera".

Given that Jon Dough's drug addiction was the likeliest cause of his self-inflicted demise, Louis's response seemed a bit tendentious, though it no doubt stemmed from his discovery that anyone trying to make a living in the traditional porn industry is having -- in financial terms, anyway -- a hard time of it.

Widespread piracy is part of the problem, but the main culprit is the internet with its zillions of free porn sites that have caused the sale of porn DVDs to plummet dramatically and probably irreversibly.

Given the people Louis encountered during the course of this film, it was difficult to feel sorry for most of them, though along with the expected sleazebags there were some touchingly innocent participants -- not least hardcore performer Kagney, who plans to retire when she's "secured a better future" for herself and her boyfriend, and veteran stud Tommy, who, despite the evidence of his last 1,200 movies, is still a bit of a dreamer and keeps thinking he might meet the girl of his dreams during his next filmed coupling.

Indeed, as well as being a lost soul, Tommy came across as something of a gentleman.

Meanwhile, on Craig Doyle Live (RTÉ Two), the host's first question to one of two British women who had been brought on to the show because of their football associations ran as follows: "Natasha, what were you thinking, shagging your husband's brother, Ryan Giggs?"

I hope you're as proud as I am to be funding RTÉ's licence fee.

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