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Bird makes proper Charlie of himself

Had Charlie Bird's American Year been shown late last year, it might have snuck into the nominations for next month's IFTAS -- in the comedy category.

Watching Charlie careening around Washington DC feeling lost and lonely, confused and unhappy, it was impossible to shake the feeling that we were watching an elaborate mockumentary about a gormless reporter from an obscure backwater all at sea in the most exciting country on earth -- Birdat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Irelandakhstan...

When not sitting in his apartment, pondering how everything in his life seems to happen "in reverse", Charlie was mulling over the fact that he'd suddenly gone from being a very big fish in a small pool to being a very tiny minnow in an extraordinarily large and intimidating lake.

Suffering from loneliness, struggling to master the technology (odd for a man who works in the electronic media) and frustrated by the lack of contacts or recognition, Charlie reflected: "When I'm back home in Ireland, I can pick up the phone to anyone and get an interview or quote. Here in DC, it was like being a junior reporter."


At times, Charlie's behaviour chimed with that of the most callow cub. Caught up in the excitement of the crowds flooding towards Barack Obama's inauguration, he decided to plant a kiss on the cheek of a middle-aged African-American woman he'd just vox popped.

"He just kissed me!" she shrieked. "Like, a total stranger!" She probably half expected someone to jump out of the bushes and tell her she was on MTV's Punk'd.

For Charlie, however, this was probably the high point. He spent St Patrick's Day trying to get a few words with the President. Instead, he got a few words with Brian Cowen, on his way in for a few words with the President.

A quest for an interview with the new US Ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, proved similarly fruitless -- largely because neither Charlie nor anyone else knew what the man looked like. When the ambassador was eventually identified, he declined to be interviewed.

Charlie had better luck when he bagged a seven-minute interview with Hillary Clinton. He beamed like Charley Bucket after he'd found his golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory.

"Did you hear the news?" he panted, bounding in to Harvey, the seasoned cameraman who's been working with RTE Washington corrs for 14 years, and who seems to regard Charlie with a weary indulgence.

Dejected, Charlie seems to have decided that since he wasn't seeing much action in Washington, he had to look for action elsewhere. Thus he took himself and Harvey off for a series of sub-Louis Theroux adventures.

Charlie interviewed Lynndie England, the ex-soldier at the centre of the Abu Ghraib torture-photo scandal, and got nothing new.

He took a pointless trip to Guantanamo Bay, where you're not allowed to film anything or ask any hard questions.

Most bafflingly of all, he hooked up with some gun crazies in West Virginia, where he got to shoot a pistol on a range. Luckily, there was no emotional fallout -- unlike that time he shot a hole through a tin can in the Antarctic.

There's another hour of Charlie making a Charlie of himself next week; a clear case of killing one Bird with two stones.

TOMORROW: Pat reviews Amanda Holden's Fantasy Lives (UTV) and puzzles over The Krypton Factor (UTV)


Charlie Bird's American Year *