Thursday 17 October 2019

What to watch: The best on the box if you're sitting in

Doug Whelan

The Savage Eye, Monday, 10pm, RTE Two

Last week it was Des Bishop saving the world, one language lesson at a time, but this week's new comedy on RTE is something altogether different and even more divisive.

Mention the name David McSavage to someone this evening and see what the reaction is. It will either be one of extreme negativity or wholehearted applause, because that seems to be the effect this comedian and performer has on people.

Those that like him love him, those that don't, absolutely despise him. And whatever side you're on, you've got to hand it to him, he's certainly made his mark and continues to do so with the return of The Savage Eye for a fourth series.

It's strange and surreal, it's offensive and crude, and it tends to be very, very funny. Dublin readers may recall the early career of McSavage (né Andrews, the son of former TD David Andrews), in which he could often be seen busking around the city centre, winding up passers-by with made-up song lyrics and generally causing chaos.

In fact, now that we think of it, those days are probably the root cause of the dislike some people tend to feel for him. By now he's proved his critics wrong by becoming one of the most visible faces in Irish comedy, by employing similar tactics to his street performances: say whatever you feel needs to be said and to hell with the consequences. Because where The Savage Eye really impresses is in its tendency to push the boundaries of taste when it comes to its mauling of Irish society.

Police, politicians, the clergy, the civil service and more all get it right in the neck as McSavage takes us on a trip around and around the country poking fun (that's putting it lightly) at all of the things that make us Irish.

It's just that, in McSavage's opinion, we're a corrupt, backward, feckless rotten-to-the-core nation of rogues and wasters. Whatever gave him that idea? There's something uncomfortable about watching The Savage Eye sometimes, like you don't know where the comedy ends and where McSavage's severe contempt for Ireland as a country begins, but it's that no-holds-barred fearlessness that makes the show quite special too. "I don't think anything I do as a comedian even touches the sides of what is happening in this country," McSavage said earlier this year. "I think what I do is very tame really." If you say so, Dave.


Watch it: The Trip To Italy, Friday, 10pm, BBC Two

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are on the road again in this uncomfortably hilarious, quasi-improvised comedy. The two comedians play the same fictional versions of themselves from The Trip (as well as director Michael Winterbottom's massively underrated film A Cock and Bull Story) as they head out on a road trip around Italy for a series of restaurant reviews. This week Steve and Rob visit Pompeii and take a spot of lunch on the Sorrento Coast. We know, it sounds more like a kind-of-dull travelogue from that description but what's wonderful about The Trip is that we're never quite sure what's real and what's not. No matter how much you remind yourself it's TV, one is always left wondering, do these two REALLY dislike each other? Because it certainly seems that way. If you're not on board with The Trip already, get involved because it is a wonder.

Record it: Hannibal (season 2), Tuesday, 10pm, Sky Living

Anyone for seconds? It's not too late to get in on the ground floor (close enough to it anyway) for this reworking of the Hannibal Lecter legend, which began of course back in 1991 with Anthony Hopkins and The Silence of the Lambs (still brilliant). Hannibal Lecter, played with chilling precision by Mads Mikkelsen, is a famed psychiatrist and FBI profiler who in his spare time gets his kicks by committing horrific murders. But it's so much more than that.

Building on the gripping first series, season 2 is set to go deeper into Lecter's disturbed mind as well as see him push the boundaries of what he himself can get away with. As we rejoin the action, FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has been framed by Lecter and finds himself locked in a mental institution. He's on to Hannibal and believes he the real Chesapeake Ripper; trouble is nobody believes him. Another profiler offers to help out; wonder how that will go for her once Lecter finds out two people know his secret ... [Hannibal season 1 is also available to stream on Sky On Demand now]

Stream it: House of Cards (1990), available now on

Before Kevin Spacey was doing his best Foghorn Leghorn impression and taking Washington DC apart piece by piece in the immense House of Cards, there was this superb four-part BBC drama from 1990. At the end of Margaret Thatcher's term as Prime Minister, Conservative party whip Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) takes it upon himself to annihilate his political enemies one at a time and elevate himself to the highest office in the land. Like Spacey's antihero, Urquhart is deliciously evil; willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. Also like Frank Underwood, Urquhart often takes a moment to break the fourth wall and address the audience directly, bringing us right in to the polite savagery of the political world as well as somehow helping us forgive the man for being a total and utter bastard. Well worth a look.

Irish Independent

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