TIM FANNING MY VIEW
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to watching TV in a foreign language…
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.