Thursday 22 March 2018

The 'Irish insight' proves a royal pain

William agus Kate: If, by any remote chance, you didn't spend the last week in a state of delirious excitement over the prospect of the royal nuptials, then hard luck because there was no escaping them on the goggle box.

BBC1 offered a historical overview of such occasions with Britain's Royal Weddings and also focused on the particular event with Kate and William: A Royal Love Story. Meanwhile, over on BBC4, the glory days of the prince's grandmother were being celebrated in two documentaries: The Queen's Wedding and The Queen's Coronation.

More 4's My Mother Diana opted for the poignant approach, while the same channel's Snowdon and Margaret reminded viewers of another doomed royal alliance.

ITV, as is its wont, plumped for the no-nonsense populist route in both When Kate Met William and William and Kate in Their Own Words, but proved no match -- in quantity, anyway -- for Channel 4, which bombarded viewers with five regally-themed programmes: Meet the Middletons, Romance and the Royals, The Royal Wedding Crashers, My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding and Come Dine With Me Royal Wedding Special.

However, none of these cross-channel shows, wretched though most of them were, managed the sheer inane pointlessness of RTE1's sole contribution to the occasion, an Irish-language half-hour called William agus Kate, in which Blathnaid Ní Chofaigh, Mary Kennedy, Maura Derrane and a gaggle of other local luvvies talked through their Erse about the imminent wedding -- all of them labouring under the delusion that what they had to say was of the remotest interest to anyone.

Kate, according to Mary Kennedy, was "elegant and dignified," while William was "quiet and calm."

These searing insights were matched by those of former Rose of Tralee Aoibhinn Ní Shuilleabháin, who thought Kate "a very strong woman", by Tom Ó Brannagáin, who revealed that "every girl is looking for her prince" and by Maura Derrane, who predicted that Kate would be "under huge pressure" in her arduous new role.

Courtesy of Derrane, the viewer also learned that the late Princess Diana "had a presence the public loved" and that because she died so young she has "stayed in our hearts."

This being Brit-baiting republican Ireland, there were a few derisory comments, too, most of them coming from UCC's professor of Irish, Alan Titley, who proudly flaunted his subversive credentials by opining that the couple's inevitable divorce would be "far more interesting" than their wedding and who was "concerned" that if the queen was "attacked by some lunatic" during her forthcoming visit here and needed an emergency transfusion, "where would we find the blue blood?"

Ho ho ho. But that was merely the final low point in a fatuous programme.

When he was the head of Parlophone records in 1963, George Martin's various proteges topped the charts for 37 weeks. "Would you say you were the Simon Cowell of the '60s?" his son Giles asked him. "I do hope not," his father replied.

Produced by George Martin (BBC2), a 90-minute Arena celebration of the 85-year-old's life and career, was full of such good moments and was notable, too, for the self-deprecation which has always been a mark of the man.

Anyone with a knowledge of how The Beatles' recordings were made is aware of Martin's crucial contribution to their achievement, but he persists to this day in downplaying his role.

Listening with composer Howard Goodall to 'Eleanor Rigby', he insisted "That was Paul -- all I had to do was just the strings."

He also came up with "just the strings" for 'Yesterday' ("pretty naïve, but it does work"), the exhilarating keyboard interlude for 'In My Life', the haunting horn solo on 'For No One', the exuberant brass flourishes to 'Penny Lane' and countless other of the innovations that have ensured that The Beatles albums remain the artistic high watermark of recorded popular music over the past 50 years.

He felt "a betrayal" when John Lennon and George Harrison asked Phil Spector to remix Let It Be and he suggested to EMI that the sleeve credits should read: "Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector."

And, though he agreed to work on the group's Abbey Road swansong, he felt relieved at the inevitable parting of the ways, though he later worked with Paul McCartney, with whom he remains close, as was evident in this affectionate and absorbing film, which also featured fine contributions from Ringo Starr, Millicent Martin, Michael Palin and Jeff Beck.

Ministéir na nDuganna (TG4), which translates as 'Priest of the Docks', concerned Jesuit John Corridan, whose role in exposing corruption in the New York longshoreman's union led to the 1954 Elia Kazan-Budd Schulberg movie On the Waterfront, in which a courageously outspoken figure very like him was memorably played by Karl Malden.

Born in Manhattan's Upper East Side of Irish parents, Corridan, who died in 1984, was unsuccessful in his campaign for a new union that would truly represent the dockers, but what he achieved was impressive anyway, as this engrossing documentary showed.

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