The foot­ball has been won­der­ful, but, else­where, any­one for De­nis?

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - CULTURE VIEW - John Boland

Iknow I’m the zil­lionth per­son to say it, but this re­ally has been a fab­u­lous World Cup — in­deed, by far the most en­ter­tain­ing that I can re­call, and I’m con­fess­ing this as some­one who had be­come so bored with soc­cer and the an­tics of its grossly over­paid ego­tists that I hadn’t in­tended watch­ing it at all.

But most of the games have been ter­rific and the same goes for RTÉ2’s match com­men­taries and stu­dio pun­ditry. And for a sport whose me­dia cov­er­age is so male-dom­i­nated, our na­tional broad­caster should be com­mended for fore­ground­ing a few women — no­tably Jac­qui Hur­ley, an in­formed and in­ci­sive af­ter­noon an­chor, and former US goal­keeper Hope Solo, an ar­rest­ingly ar­tic­u­late pan­el­list.

Roll on to­day’s quar­ter fi­nals, when I’ll be cheer­ing for Eng­land’s Harry Kane (an old-fash­ioned hero straight out of Roy of the Rovers), though I can’t be the only per­son lament­ing that the su­perb Ja­panese team didn’t make the cut that was de­servedly theirs.

Any­way, full marks to RTÉ, which then went and spoiled it all by re­screen­ing two of the most syco­phan­tic pro­grammes it has ever com­mis­sioned: Der­mot Ban­non’s ridicu­lously wide-eyed cel­e­bra­tion of mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar bling in New York (Der­mot Ban­non’s US Homes) and Yas­mine Akram’s ec­static gush­ings about the wealthy Ir­ish who live on the Riviera (Ir­ish in Won­der­land).

And to mark the re­cent pass­ing of Bal­ly­maloe’s founder, RTÉ1 re­screened Myr­tle Allen: A Cel­e­bra­tion, which it first aired in 2013. At the time, I deemed it badly marred by its rev­er­en­tial ap­proach, with even such in­ti­mate fam­ily mem­bers as Da­rina and Rachel re­fer­ring to their ma­tri­arch in hushed tones as “Mrs Allen”, yet some­how

I was more tol­er­ant in this af­ter­math of her death, though a lit­tle less awe wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The Misad­ven­tures of Romesh Ran­ganathan (BBC2) be­gan with its co­me­dian host ref­er­enc­ing other celebrities who have fronted global trav­el­ogues, such as Karl Pilk­ing­ton, Jack White­hall and Michael Palin. No women celebrities, such as Joanna Lum­ley, were men­tioned but then Ran­ganathan, Bri­tish-born of Sri Lankan back­ground, has al­ways pre­sented him­self as a very male kind of guy.

And not a very em­pa­thetic or ap­peal­ing one, ei­ther, if you were to judge from this pro­gramme, in which he dif­fi­dently wan­dered about earth­quake-ru­ined and poverty-stricken Haiti — a “shit­hole” ac­cord­ing to US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, and one of the three “dan­ger­ous” places Ran­ganathan is vis­it­ing for this se­ries, with Ethiopia and Al­ba­nia (is Al­ba­nia re­ally that dan­ger­ous?) still to come.

His guide, lo­cal jour­nal­ist Jeremy, was much more like­able, though to­wards the end Ran­ganathan did seem to get a bit more en­gaged with his sur­round­ings, even ad­vis­ing view­ers to opt for Haiti as an “eth­i­cal” des­ti­na­tion. So would he be back next year? “Nah, I’m go­ing to Por­tu­gal”. Some­one who has done more for post-earth­quake Haiti than most peo­ple, or in­deed most gov­ern­ments, is Ir­ish bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man De­nis O’Brien, the sub­ject of RTÉ’S two-hour long doc­u­men­tary De­nis O’Brien: The Story So Far (RTÉ1).

David Mur­phy’s doc­u­men­tary was a dense, and at times al­most in­di­gestible, ac­count of O’Brien’s busi­ness deal­ings.

The film’s most ar­rest­ing in­ter­vie­wees were peo­ple who had once worked with or for him but were now es­tranged for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

Th­ese in­cluded former Esat Digi­fone CEO Barry Maloney, former INM ex­ec­u­tive Gavin O’Reilly and jour­nal­ist Sam Smyth, all of whom had strik­ing things to say.

As for those who spoke in praise of O’Brien, the film came up with the odd­est of pair­ings in former US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and dis­graced Tip­per­ary TD Michael Lowry, not that the lat­ter thinks him­self so.

But the core of all the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing O’Brien over the last two decades is the ac­cu­sa­tion he built his global tele­coms and me­dia em­pire on pay­ments made to then-com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Lowry for a mo­bile phone li­cence in the 1990s, with O’Brien al­ways deny­ing that he paid even a “red cent” to the former Fine Gael min­is­ter.

That’s how the sit­u­a­tion still stands, with both men deny­ing any wrong­do­ing, and this over­long doc­u­men­tary ended by let­ting you make up your own mind about that.

In part two of In­side the Amer­i­can Em­bassy (Chan­nel 4), we saw the Lon­don-based US con­sular staff deal­ing with the changed re­al­i­ties de­manded by their new pres­i­dent. “The leg­is­la­tion could come through to­mor­row”, one of them said, “that no­body with pur­ple hair is al­lowed in [to the US] and we would en­force it at the win­dow”.

At the same win­dow, a Pak­istani man who was be­ing de­nied a hol­i­day visa to Las Ve­gas tried to rea­son with the con­sular of­fi­cial: “I’ve never bro­ken a law in my 33 years. Why would I start now?” But it was to no avail.

More op­ti­misti­cally, in­deed quite lu­nati­cally, an English man who had served five years in prison for gross in­de­cency with a child of­fered as his ra­tio­nale for the crime: “I was kind of tricked into a re­la­tion­ship with a girl who was well known to the po­lice”.

That was never go­ing to work.

David Mur­phy’s doc­u­men­tary was a dense, and at times al­most in­di­gestible, ac­count of O’Brien’s busi­ness deal­ings

The doc­u­men­tary De­nis O’Brien: The Story So Far fea­tured in­ter­views with some es­tranged former co-work­ers, as well as Bill Clin­ton, who praised the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man

Hur­ley: In­ci­sive

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