Ig­no­rance is bliss when it comes to watch­ing TV in a for­eign lan­guage…

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FOOD & DRINK -

atch­ing TV in a for­eign lan­guage is a strangely ad­dic­tive pas­time. One of the best things about it is that you’ve no idea what the pre­sen­ters are say­ing. Well, that’s not quite true, be­cause you get the same rub­bish game shows, soap op­eras and chat shows wher­ever you end up in the world. And the pre­sen­ters say more or less the same thing. But there are al­ways a few dif­fer­ences that make things in­ter­est­ing.

Watch­ing a soap opera on South Korean TV, I was struck by how for­mal the ac­tors looked. The same tech­niques beloved of soap di­rec­tors around the world were there: lots of close-ups and pained ex­pres­sions. But the big hair and low-cut tops of the US and South Amer­i­can ver­sions were strangely ab­sent. In­deed the cast looked like they were off to a job in­ter­view in a Sun­day school. De­spite the fact that they gave the world Gang­nam Style, the South Kore­ans are fairly prud­ish when it comes to what ap­pears on TV. If it had been a North Korean soap, the ac­tors would have been go­ing around in Mao suits, com­plain­ing about the im­pe­ri­al­ist pup­pets next door and get­ting into fights over nukes.

Speak­ing of Big Brother, the Dutch show has been fran­chised around the world and the premise is ba­si­cally the same. Stick a lot of an­noy­ing, fame-hun­gry no­bod­ies into a house and let them fight it out, Lord Of The Flies-style. But again, there are dif­fer­ences. On Gran Her­mano, the Span­ish ver­sion of the show, the con­tes­tants are al­ways in the kitchen, cook­ing. So much so that they don’t find time for back­bit­ing, ex­cept when some­body steals the pa­prika. In France, they have the same chat shows, with the pre­dictable ros­ter of ac­tors and ac­tresses, mu­si­cians and co­me­di­ans. But, in France, they dis­cuss the in­tri­ca­cies of ex­is­ten­tial­ism with their host rather than what their dog had for break­fast. In Italy, game shows look and sound ex­actly the same, ex­cept there are more semi- clad women on one episode than have ap­peared on RTÉ since its foun­da­tion. Un­sur­pris­ing, given Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni owns the chan­nels.

It’s a mildly sooth­ing ex­pe­ri­ence watch­ing tele­vi­sion in a strange lan­guage. Thank­fully, many of us don’t have to go halfway around the world to do it. We just turn on TG4. As part of RTÉ Goes Wild, a new strand of na­ture pro­gram­ming across tele­vi­sion and ra­dio, Derek Mooney (above) fol­lows in the foot­steps of the great Vic­to­rian nat­u­ral­ist Robert Lloyd Praeger. Each Fri­day for five years, be­gin­ning in 1895, Praeger would walk from Dublin’s National Li­brary to Kings­bridge (now Heuston) Sta­tion to catch a train into the coun­try­side. His mis­sion – which saw him walk more than 7,000 kilo­me­tres over 200 days – was to doc­u­ment our unique ecosys­tem. Over a cen­tury later, armed with a copy of Praeger’s The Way That I Went, Derek be­gins a jour­ney around Ire­land to ex­plore how our fauna has de­vel­oped over tens of thou­sands of years.

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