Saturday 16 December 2017

John Boland: so macho -- and that's just the women. . .

the apprentice tv3 the secret millionaire RTÉ One Tom Clancy: Geal é a Chroí tg4 Downton Abbey ITV

It was Day One of The Apprentice (TV3) and Bill Cullen's sidekick Jackie Lavin, not usually associated with girly crushes, was plainly smitten by accounts manager Peter, whom she deemed to have "a really lovely personality".

Peter then went and spoiled it all by confiding that his career motto is "second base, first loser" and that he's "extremely competitive -- I am in your face the entire time".

Oh dear, I don't think I'd fancy that, but hey, it's the new season of The Apprentice, where macho posturing is the norm, even among the women. And thus we had squeaky-voiced company owner Conor insisting, "I'm an action man, I'm a grafter, I don't sit here talking bull"; marketing entrepreneur Brian snarling "I'm not here to make friends"; multimedia company owner Joanne applauding herself for being "resilient and tough"; and guest relations manager Maurice boasting "I like being the centre of attention".

Indeed, Maurice was so taken with himself that he clearly loved even what he described as his "worst characteristic", which he proudly declared to be his "big mouth" -- so big, in fact, that it's "three or four seconds faster than my brain". Not that fast, then. Oh, and he should lose the beard.

Others who visibly stood out were a black female candidate whom the filmmakers didn't bother introducing to us and a woman who looked to be from the Far East but was actually from South Africa.

She was called Claire and had the most intriguing job description -- "quantity-surveyor-turned-etiquette-trainer". Her ambition, she revealed, was to "make etiquette videos in Mandarin and sell them to the Chinese market". And why not, though if that's the case what on earth is she doing trying to get a job with Bill Cullen?

And certainly she didn't impress Bill's other sidekick, the shaven-headed Brian Purcell, who thought that she'd "totally lost control" of her alloted task, which was to draw up a budget for the sandwich-selling exercise that her team turned into a fiasco.

Marketing manager Aisling, who had abandoned her boyfriend in Australia for the chance to become Bill's loyal apprentice, was quite the nicest of the whole bunch, so it goes without saying that she was the first to be fired. If I were her I'd be on an immediate plane back to Australia, where I hear you can earn a good living without being ridiculed.

Or being patronised, which is the lot of those who are granted largesse by The Secret Millionaire (RTÉ One). In this week's final programme of a fairly repellent series, the guy handing out the cheques was businessman Nadim Sadek, who left the private island he owns off Mayo for a few days in order to mingle with some of our less well-off citizens in Cork's Shandon area.

As with the other millionaires in this series, he confessed himself moved and changed by the experience, but the whole exercise still came across as arbitrary, condescending and somewhat tacky.

Directed by RoseAnn Foley and featuring her sister Catherine as reporter-interviewer, Tom Clancy: Geal é a Chroí (TG4) was an affecting film for anyone who recalled the actor-singer. Towards the end of his life in the late 1980s I met him a few times in Ring, to which he'd returned from America with his wife Joan and daughters, and I thought him wonderfully good company, less ebullient than his younger brother Liam but even better at shaping and telling a story -- he had us all in stitches in Mooney's pub one night with his account of a blind-drunk Jason Robards staggering onstage during a famous New York production of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, which co-starred both men.

"Geal é a Chroí", taken from a song, translates as "His heart is bright" and there was testimony to that in the film, old friend Seamus MacCraith recalling that "he spread happiness" and bar owner Anne Mooney simply saying "everyone loved Tom". That was my feeling about him, too, and this half-hour film was a fine tribute to him, with notable contributions from poet Michael Coady and from Finbar Furey, who spoke of his friend's "big, big, gorgeous smile".

The underlying mood, though, was elegiac, with Seamus MacCraith saying of the Clancy Brothers that "it's a terrible shame they all died so young". Indeed it is, and Tom was only 66.

A year ago I described the first series of Downton Abbey (ITV) as a guilty pleasure, though I'm not finding much pleasure in the new season.

Part of the reason is that what seemed organic to plot and character first time around (you believed in both) has somehow been lost and there's the distinct feeling of the players being shoehorned into situations that seem less credible.

And the reactionary politics of it all is quite alarming. It's not just the characters who accept their hereditary roles as masters and underlings -- the makers endorse these inequalities, too, and ask that the viewer follow suit.

That's only to be expected from something conceived by aspirant toff Julian Fellowes, but you'd imagine that the world might have moved on from the 1970s, when the social assumptions of a series like Upstairs Downstairs were swallowed whole by a public that was still in awe of class distinctions.

But plus ca change, because the huge popularity of this series suggests that many people haven't moved on at all, which must cheer David Cameron up no end.

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