Tuesday 10 December 2019

John Boland: Paul's sure-fire recipe needs a signature stir

Saturday Night with Miriam RTé1
Paul flynn Irish Foods RTé1
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour RTé2
Fake or Fortune? BBC1
Perfume BBC4

All of us have things we hope never again to encounter on television, and for me one of these is yet another RTé interview with celebrity lawyer Gerald Kean, whose ubiquity on our screens over the last couple of years has exceeded even that of Louis Walsh and Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh.

So no marks at all to Saturday Night with Miriam (RTé1), which two weeks ago afforded further screen-time to this tireless self-publicist. Yes, I know that part of Miriam O'Callaghan's charm -- at least in her non-political persona -- is a warm indulgence towards humanity in general, but shouldn't there be a limit?

Something else I'd hoped not to encounter on RTé was a new addition to its endless series of cookery programmes, yet after the recent Kitchen Hero, featuring a boy chef making boy's food, along comes Paul Flynn: Irish Food (RTé1), with its message that if we keep it simple, cooking is a doddle.

That's plainly not true. Indeed, having recently (and belatedly) paid my first visit to Flynn's much-esteemed Dungarvan restaurant, the Tannery, I've nothing but praise for the care and professionalism that went into every aspect -- cooking, presentation, service -- of the evening, though I wish that the same attention to detail had been evident in the first programme of his new series, which extolled the virtues of two homegrown Irish staples, the potato and the apple.

Flynn was commendably down-to-earth in his general approach but somewhat remiss when it came to particulars. Thus, while he had me drooling over his "signature dish" of mashed potatoes "with a little twist", he failed to tell me which variety of potato -- whether waxy or floury -- would be best suited to it. And the "little bit of mustard" that he recommended to give it that extra kick just left me wondering: Dijon or hot English or what? And he was similarly uninformative about what stock to use in a particular dish.

Still, if we must have yet more cookery programmes, let them be as amiable, unpretentious and encouraging as this one.

RTé2 seems quite excited about its latest American spin-off, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour, though I can't see why. The first episode was bog-standard stuff in which various elements of CSI, Without a Trace and Cold Case were shamelessly cobbled together. The tired plotline (a race against time to locate two abducted children) was enacted by characters straight out of central casting -- including the loose-cannon male agent and the supergeek girl operative who can find all the crucial details on her computer in a matter of seconds.

A shame, then, that it wastes two really good performers -- Forest Whitaker, who's even more fraught than usual (he shouldn't have read the script) and Janeane Garofalo, who's given absolutely nothing to do.

In the second instalment of Fake or Fortune? (BBC1), Fiona Bruce persisted with the annoyingly arch shtick that makes the current incarnation of the Antiques Road Show such a trial, which was a pity because the story being told was intriguing.

It involved a watercolour that had been found two decades ago by an English fisherman at a rubbish tip near Youghal. He had given it to his daughter, Selina, who discovered that it had been painted by the celebrated American landscape artist Winslow Homer and who decided to sell it at a Sotheby's auction in New York.

But her belief that finders were keepers was vigorously contested by the descendants of the painting's original owners, the Blake family from the Myrtle Grove demesne in Waterford.

The result is that an artwork thought to be worth $250,000 is now languishing in an auction-house vault while lawyers for both sides continue to argue their case. The tale and its telling were good enough for Fiona's presence not to matter too much.

The week's best documentary, Perfume (BBC4, the first of a three-part series), was all about fragrance but it ended with the stench of racism when the head of the Guerlain fragrance empire, the septuagenarian Jean-Paul Guerlain, made a remark offensive to black people on French television last autumn. This, the film showed, led to protests calling for a boycott of Guerlain products outside the company's flagship Paris store.

The film coyly refrained from detailing his exact words (you'll find them on the internet) but the impact of what he said was registered in the response of Guerlain's heir apparent and surrogate son Thierry Wasser, who spoke with cold disgust of his mentor's racial slur.

Up to that point, the film had very entertainingly contrasted the French firm's patrician, old-world ways with the brashness on display from the perfumers and marketeers who were conjuring up a new fragrance for Tommy Hilfiger.

It came in a bottle shaped like a 45-inch record and it was entitled Loud. If Jean-Paul Guerlain hadn't been busy articulating his racism he would have been aghast at the crassness of his American rival.


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