Friday 22 November 2019

John Boland: It's a blackout! How I missed our Katie's moment of glory

Ouch! John
didn't get to see
Katie's fight
Ouch! John didn't get to see Katie's fight

'See what you're missing." Such is the promise that greets you when you decide to avail of RTÉ Player, though in my recent experience the slogan should be amended to "Miss what you're supposed to be seeing".

I was holidaying in the French countryside for most of the Olympics but, courtesy of my iPad, was able to keep in touch with each day's events via newspapers and an app that gave me live coverage from BBC One of all the major contests.

But for the Katie Taylor final, I opted to watch the historic occasion on RTÉ Player's live feed, which duly complied when Mick Dowling and his fellow pundits appeared on screen to discuss the bout that was coming up. Then, just as the match was about to begin, the screen went blank.

Switching over to BBC One was no good because that channel was too busy celebrating Nicola Adams of the UK, who had won a boxing gold a little earlier, to bother with live coverage of the Taylor match.

So it was back to RTÉ Player and, despite fervent pleas and frequent imprecations, all I got was a blank screen and no sound for the entire fight. And despite the fact that I could tune into BBC radio and various other stations, I got no reception from RTÉ's radio player, despite its assurance that "radio just got easier".

What's the point of a service that promises "seamless viewing" and "easy" listening to everyone from San Francisco to Shanghai and then fails to deliver just when it's most wanted?

Overall, the BBC did a brilliant job in covering the games -- indeed, it was the best coverage of any Olympics that I can recall, if partly helped by the fact that the Games themselves were the best in living memory. But the closing night extravaganza (RTÉ Two/BBC One), a supposed celebration of British music and its impact on the world, was a terrible letdown.

It was almost killed stone-dead by drearily self-indulgent and overlong performances from George Michael, Annie Lennox, Muse and Fatboy Slim. Indeed, only 69-year-old Eric Idle, with his exuberantly daft rendition of 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' seemed to understand that a sense of sheer OTT fun was what the evening needed.

The previous night, BBC One screened Julien Temple's two-hour London: The Modern Babylon, a wonderfully edited film of archive material and interviews which sought to evoke the spirit of England's capital throughout the last century and up to today.

Impressionistic in approach and technique and with a beguiling soundtrack taken from the songs of the various times, this evocation of a great metropolis was good enough to rank alongside Terence Davies's passionate paean to the Liverpool of his childhood, Of Time and the City, though the tone was less tinged with regret.

The new series of Accused (BBC One), created and scripted by Jimmy McGovern, keeps loyal to the same basic set-up as the first series -- at the outset a man or woman, usually of good character, is brought before a judge and the film then proceeds to show how this came about.

In this week's opener, middle-aged and respectably suited schoolteacher Simon appeared in the dock and then, in flashback, we encountered him as transvestite Tracie in a tight red skirt and flamboyant blonde wig as he was being harassed by a yobbo in a pub.

However, the yobbo's brother, Tony, a married repressed gay, took a shine to him and they had a clandestine affair which culminated in a murder.

There were some implausibilities along the way, but McGovern's scenario and script deftly explored such themes as shame, humiliation and betrayal, and he was brilliantly served by Stephen Graham as the shiftily yearning Tony and by Sean Bean as the flamboyant but lonely Simon/Tracie.

This was a brave performance by an actor usually typecast as a hard man or heavy, but he was very touching in this departure from the norm.

Less impressive was the opening episode of the two-part Ruth Rendell's Thirteen Steps Down, which concerned the murky twilight world inhabited by brooding loner Mix, a repairman unhealthily obsessed with the doings of serial killer John Reginald Christie.

The brutal murder of a hapless young woman ensued, along with various attempts to dispose of the body (under the floorboards never being a good idea), but though Luke Treadaway was sweatily convincing in the lead role, the film was too full of cliches to make one eager to discover how it would all pan out.

In What's My Body Worth? (More 4), Storm Theunissen explored physically personal ways of making some cash in these recessionary times. That, at any rate, was the documentary's premise, though Theunissen seemed mainly interested in getting her kit off as frequently as possible.

To this end, she lay legs akimbo in a doctor's surgery as he told her how much her eggs might be worth to infertile couples ($15,000 in the US but only £750 in the UK).

And she shimmied up and down poles and thrust her crotch into strange men's faces as she learned what such activities might earn between £40 and £1,000 a night (though mostly the former).

It was all very educational. Yeah, right.

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