Thursday 23 November 2017

Shame on RTÉ for inflicting this disgraceful drivel on us

Even leaving aside the ghastly news stories of the past fortnight from Wales and Melbourne, you would imagine that comedy sketches about the rape of children and the sexual abuse of young women would be deemed entirely unacceptable by any responsible broadcaster.

RTÉ, however, clearly thinks otherwise and in its new RTÉ Two hidden camera show, The Fear, it serves up both of these horrible scenarios for our supposed merriment.

In one scene, actress Hilary Rose poses as an East European prostitute on the streets of Sligo, where she repeatedly asks a bemused local lorry driver if he has "girls inside". These, she informs him in broken English (the attempts at humour are distinctly racist, too), are friends whom she was due to meet after they were transported to Sligo and she instructs him to search the lorry for them.

Later, the same character goes into a local shop, where she seeks help in choosing a card for her niece. Asked by the young woman assistant if it's for a birthday or a Holy Communion, she says "No, she break her virgin" and the card is to congratulate her on "cracking your box". Her niece, she adds, is "13, but she late starter, you know".

Created and written by Shane Mulvey, Derek Dillon and Peter Foott, this is a show that's as unfunny as it's rancid. In one scene, the aggressively resistible Jennifer Maguire tells a young woman in Galway about the violent accidents that have happened to her pets and, when the woman giggles, she shouts at her: "Are you laughing? It's not funny."

No, it's not and RTÉ ought to be ashamed of itself.

It ought to be ashamed of The Gathering too (RTÉ One), which slavishly supports the Discover Ireland/Leo Varadkar bid to get Irish emigrants back on the oul sod next year and thus keep Michael Noonan and Angela Merkel happy by parting with their hard-earned cash.

For the past 20 years or more, comedian Brendan Grace has been spending most of his own cash in Florida's Palm Beach, to which he decamped during the early 1990s in search of a sunnier lifestyle. But he was the first of the celebrities inveigled back by this series to promote the joys of the country he had cheerfully left behind.

The Liberties had been his hang-out as a young fella and there was a nice moment when he reunited two old men who'd last met as boys growing up on Brabazon Square.

Though overly milked by the filmmakers, this was quite touching, but the rest was the usual guff about the rare old times, while every three minutes Grace was exhorting emigrants to take out their wallets and give it a whirl here in 2013.

Over the next few weeks, Fionnula Flanagan and others who have chosen to live anywhere but here will be on the same RTÉ mission. You couldn't make it up. Leo must be thrilled, though.

RTÉ One's main documentary of the week was Perfect Heart, which concerned the transplant operation that was finally granted to John Healy, a former restaurant maitre d' who was so flamboyantly garrulous that he'd wear you out.

Still, he was engagingly articulate and I'd have found the film genuinely engrossing if he hadn't already told the entire story of his life in the fast lane and the toll it took on him to Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show a few nights earlier.

If The Fear was grotesquely unfunny, the first season of Threesome (Comedy Central) proved so likeable that it has been given a second series.

As in Chris O'Dowd's Moone Boy (Sky One), chuckles rather than guffaws are what it provokes, but if you can get past its somewhat shambolic style, there is a sweetness to it that's quite endearing.

As in the initial series, Amy Huberman displayed a lovely comic touch in this opening episode, even if the way she kept scrinching up her face made it hard to discern her loveliness. However, a couple of scenes in slinky mini-dresses and tight jeans were enough to get male hearts pounding.

There were heart-pounding moments too in the opener to the second season of Homeland (RTÉ Two), especially when Brody, who is now being groomed as a vice-presidential candidate, broke into the CIA boss's safe when the latter temporarily left the room.

Brody, as you'll recall, turned out to be the terrorist that bipolar agent Carrie always thought he was, although no one believed her then and still didn't believe her at the start of the new series as she recuperated from the mental breakdown she suffered on being fired from her job.

The notion of a foreign agent infiltrating the highest echelons of US power is familiar from Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate and Charles McCarry's Lucky Bastard (now there's an unfairly unregarded book), but the makers of Homeland give it a topical spin, with controversies over drone missiles and Israeli aggression towards Iran.

And though Brody is a baddy, he's a complicated one and his character is given considerable shading by Damian Lewis, who won a deserved Emmy for his performance, along with the equally deserving Claire Danes as Carrie. Let's hope the series holds its nerve and doesn't get silly.

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