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Paddy's grand auld chat falls flat

REPORTER Paddy O'Gorman and his famous hat are back on the road, this time visiting local towns to capture a "microcosm of Ireland in these challenging times".

In Irish terms, this translates as "having the grand auld chat", for which O'Gorman has quite the talent.

The self-styled man-on-the-ground made his name by chronicling the lives of the disadvantaged and the disreputable.

However, a visit to Ballyjamesduff in Cavan to talk to its residents about, er, being residents of Ballyjamesduff in Cavan, is a touch less riveting.

His contemplative mien and forthright line of questioning was in full effect -- but much of the content was bewilderingly boring.

At certain points you'd be forgiven for thinking you were watching a mockumentary, particularly when conversation turned to a local cardboard box factory ("very busy at the moment").

He did try to create quirky angles, but mostly they failed to deliver. The programme promised a shopkeeper with a jail in his back yard. Alas, it was a historic building and not a temporary holding cell for petty thieves.

And quite how a Chinese couple owning a local bakery counts as out of the ordinary, I will never know. Presumably they should be running a takeaway called The Lotus Blossom.

Our intrepid reporter seemed more tax inspector than television presenter when he visited the couple and began perusing their fare. "Who's the baker here? Where are you from, please?"

What followed was a stream of predictable questions about adapting to life in Ireland. Do we really need another documentary exploring Irish multiculturalism? The story is about 10 years too old.

Amusingly, the only new culture that the Ballyjamesduff residents were having trouble coming to grips with was "the influx of the Dublin people".

You'd think he was talking about a swarm of locusts when one local remarked that "they're integrating into the town and you have to accept that they are here and that's that."

It was an insightful vignette, but O'Gorman was otherwise exploring strands of Irish society that have long been poked and prodded at.

Conversations on the Celtic Tiger elicited predictably hackneyed responses. My eyes actually glazed over when one opined that "people lost the run of themselves".

There were moments of magic, though. He captured a sense of old Ireland by assembling a motley crew of cattle farmers wearing cragged faces and matted woollen jumpers and spouting off casual misogyny.

Farmers born and bred, they made no bones about the fact that this was their labour of love. One admitted that he hasn't taken a holiday in 10 years, save for attending champion cow competitions.

Thinking he had stumbled onto the set of John B Keane's The Love Hungry Farmer, O'Gorman probed them on their luck with the ladies ... "when you're covered in..."

"Sh*t," offered one of the farmers matter-of-factly, before reasoning that "sh*t is only gas and water" All sorts of divilment ensued as they quickly devolved into a group of unruly schoolboys.

Where do you meet women, asked O'Gorman. "I met mine at the airport. She had the suitcase in her hand," said one to a chorus of laughter.

Would they be looking for a woman from a dairy farming family? "It's very hard to get one like that," answered one. "They're very scarce," grinned another.

It's moments like these that define O'Gorman's unique interview style. Only, when the programme itself has no rhyme or reason, these moments become all the more rare.

o'gorman hhiii

Pat Stacey is away