| 18.9°C Dublin

Glint

Just mild about Danie lFOR ONE NIGHT ONLY (RTE 1), Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son (UTV)



Crooner Daniel O'Donnell is a master of minimalism: minimal vocal exertion, minimal movement, minimal emotional fluctuation, minimal pulse rate. His face is permanently arranged in a mild twinkle-eyed smile which never retreats to a frown or proceeds to a belly laugh. You can easily imagine him in swaddling clothes nestling down to sleep between a lion and a lamb. I honestly believe he might be able to heal the sick.

On For One Night Only, this earthbound angel recounted his life and times to prim, apple-cheeked codger Gay Byrne, and his slow-paced charm worked on the audience like a warm neuron-scrambling sedative. By the first song (My Donegal Shore) everyone in the studio were staring in glassy eyed adoration, gently swaying and mouthing the words to themselves. You could have removed some internal organs and they'd hardly have noticed.

Even Gay succumbed, smiling indulgently as Daniel told gently humorous tales about Top of the Pops, Medjugorje (depicted as a sort of Catholic Las Vegas where the Virgin Mary has a residency), the Wife and the Mammy (the only audience member with a dangerous glint in her eye; I suspect that woman is capable of anything). He also talked about how much he loved his heroin (sorry ... I mean, his heroine, Loretta Lynn) and then he performed music that was as perfectly edgeless as a polished sphere.

He did this effortlessly, his choreographed jigs and hip wiggles so unthreatening and meek they'd make the average uncle dancing at a wedding look like Mick Jagger gyrating his way through a cocaine orgy. At one point Gay announced that Daniel would perform "a rock n'roll" medley". There must have been a dramatic intake of breath in the studio, because Gay quickly added: "Genteel rock and roll, nothing to be scared of."

You can laugh (you really can), but Daniel, unlike more critically acclaimed acts, has a genuine role to play in Irish life. His audience are older ladies for whom life was hard and pleasure was basically illegal. This is not a group of people who ripped off their bikinis tops while monged on ketamine in an Ibiza club screaming, "PARTY!" It's a generation that sipped an illicit cup of tea between thankless chores and guiltily whispered, "biscuit?"

These people worked their fingers to the bone and have earned their dose of Daniel, who is, to be fair, a very nice man. Indeed, after an hour of gentle anecdotes, inoffensive music and mildly teasing eyebrow movements, I began to see the appeal. "I wish Daniel was my son," I thought. "That would be lovely."

Over on UTV, the first episode of Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son documented how Jane Clough was murdered by her abusive, steroid-using boyfriend while he was out on bail for raping her. It was a tribute to a brave woman, a recognition of the loss experienced by her family, particularly her young daughter, and a blunt reminder of the dangers faced by abused women everywhere. Unfortunately, at some point the programme makers decided we wouldn't know what to feel without the help of an intrusive soundtrack, choppy cop show edits, dramatic recreations and flashy filters.

When faced with the horrifying facts I don't need eerie synthesiser chords to help me feel disturbed. After listening to grieving relatives recalling their loved one, I don't need "sad" music to prompt a tear. And sequences in which experts discuss evidence do not need to be framed like an episode of CSI. I know reality television has muddied the waters for a lot of programme makers, but emotional engagement isn't about button-pressing. People are capable of appreciating the depth of the Clough family's terrible loss without being tricked into doing so. Those tricks cheapened what was otherwise a very worthwhile documentary.

For One Night Only HHHII

Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son HHHII


Privacy