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Queen of shops and Prince of funk

Like RTE, Senator Quinn has the edge in terms of resources and experience (he's old enough to compare contemporary retail practices to the department stores of the 1950s and possibly even the bartering techniques of raiding Norse Men) but, like TV3, Fitzpatrick is shinier and operates on a lower budget.


The basic concept of both shows is the same. A failing retail establishment is visited by a Svengali who offers sage advice and prompts a revamp. In the debut episode of SOS, Fitzpatrick visits the Closet boutique in Wexford where Tara and James Molloy are struggling to sell what appear to be skimpy clown clothes to local waifs (okay, they're not actually clown clothes).

The first problem, as Fitzpatrick saw it, was that this likeable couple didn't know their market. Indeed, were there even clownish waifs in Wexford and "do they have the readies, the ca-ching to come here?" she asked in fluent gibberish.

Then there was the fact that neither Tara nor James seemed hugely pushed about having a shop. Tara wanted to stay at home with the kids; James talked about returning to his previous job as a fisherman. But shutting the business wasn't a runner due to the title (the programme isn't called SDOSSWCPOC Shut Down Our Shops So We Can Pursue Other Careers).

So Fitzpatrick brought them to meet Diesel manager Frankie Kelly who inspired them, incidentally giving Diesel products some publicity along the way.

Up until this point it was all motoring along nicely. The Molloys' personal and financial predicament seemed real enough and Fitzpatrick seemed engagingly intent on administering tough love.

And then the whole programme seemed to miss a beat. The Closet was suddenly made over with new clothes on new displays, a new sign and paint job, and newly smiling owners. But we didn't see the process. It was essentially a before and after shot with no bit in the middle.

At the very least they could have shown Tara and James making these changes in a montage set to an inspirational 80s power ballad. As it was it felt like the shop just changed of its own accord... like Bruce Banner into the Hulk, or Feargal Quinn into Lisa Fitzpatrick.

If I ever meet Prince, I will be sorely disappointed if he doesn't shake my hand and say "My name is Prince, and I am funky" as he did in his boastful song of the same name. I'm already disappointed that this never became a customary greeting among other royals and heads of state ("My name is Michael D and I am funky," our new president might say to the queen. "When it comes to funk, I am a junky," he'd add matter of factly).

His Royal Purpleness's particular genius has always been tinged with high-octane ludicrousness and an acknowledgement of this was missing from last night's Prince: A Purple Reign. Like many of BBC4's Friday night music documentaries, it was another humourless attempt to flatter ageing Generation Xers and Baby Boomers (both groups seeming increasingly alike) that their preoccupation with old pop music isn't a sign of arrested development but a symptom of refined good taste.

And so it was that assembled cultural critics and music journalists spoke about Prince wearing stockings and suspenders with the same earnestness others speak about renaissance architecture or bond yields.

Thankfully this was interspersed with footage of a garishly dressed sex midget singing some of the best songs ever written. He certainly is funky. Indeed, he's said as much himself.

SOS Save our Shops HHHII

Prince: A Purple Reign HHIII