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Shortt's mattie is an abomination

With the Midlands the epicentre of Pat Shortt's brand of comedy for so long, Mattie shows just how comfortable the comic has been in the world of jumbo breakfast rolls and static characters stuck in Hiace vans, musty pubs and village halls.

Good comedy can sometimes force the viewer to confront the familiar foibles and weaknesses of everyday characters that cut close to the bone. We recognise ourselves and those of our own circle and laugh while secretly shedding a tear -- The Office, for example. It can be totally off the wall and implausible, like Monty Python, or allow the release of a repressed belly laugh at a subject that was previously taboo, like Fr Ted.

In the late 1980s, Shortt and Jon Kenny as D'Unbelievables pulled together a cast of characters that were often familiar, often implausible and often taboo, but always hilarious. Killinascully was also home turf for Shortt where the rest of us ventured at our own risk -- but many did and enjoyed it and credit where it's due.

Shortt also showed a remarkable sensitivity in his role as Josie in the warm and wonderful Garage. But Mattie is an abomination.

The basic premise is that a bungling country detective, Mattie, is transferred to the big shhmoke to serve on the force with a feisty female partner (Lesley Conroy) with whom he develops a love/hate relationship. The pair -- if the trend of the first episode is not to be bucked, and why would it be -- are always tasked with the lowly cases but manage to pull it altogether in the end through the intervention, perhaps, of co-writers Mike Finn (Killinascully) and David Cummings (The Fast Show).

Opening with Mattie trying to find 'digs', cardboard characters pop up like dummies on a shooting range and we suddenly find him in the company of a bunch of thickos on the squad led by exasperated superintendent (played by a very exasperated Joe Taylor).

Obvious and lazy gambits that have followed Shortt like a bad smell since he left Tipp feature strongly and similarly linger.

He has a picture of a tractor on his desktop. He has a plastic tractor on the dashboard of his clapped-out car. He has a smile like a footprint in cow shite. He only drinks tea, a trait upon which the plot of the first episode hinges as he goes berserk from his first 'expresso'. And so on.

But if viewers take offence at this wanton waste of licence fees, can you imagine how the gardai feel? The Church asked for Fr Ted, but the gardai today just don't make a target for this type of comedy.

There is nothing familiar, nothing off the wall and certainly nothing to induce that belly laugh. It borders, frankly, on the criminal. And for Shortt, a likeable and terribly charismatic character ... he's going away for a long time after this.

IN the build-up to the 9/11 anniversary, expect a wide choice of documentaries and films on the subject (next Saturday sees the screening of the excellent Flight 93 on C4 followed by The State of Emergency).

But don't expect to see anything as shocking as this.

Amateur footage of the period from the moment the first plane hit Twin Tower one to the collapse of the second, is pieced together to form a timeline, the film broken only by an onscreen clock.

Little of the horror is spared -- people jumping from the buildings, transcripts of loved ones on phones -- and the eeriness is compounded by the lack of narrator, at times there is nothing but a deadly silence. Remarkable.

Mattie *

102 minutes that changed America *****