TIM FANNING MY VIEW
From horses to courses, stamina and self-belief are what it’s all about…
ohnny Murtagh was face to face with a few horses of a far shaggier kind than he’s used to this week. In the first episode of ( Monday, RTÉ One), the champion jockey, who’s now turning his hand to training, was giving a few words of advice to Dubliner Wes Doyle. At the age of 36, Wes has made the decision to return to education, having left school at 15. Horses, though, are Wes’s great passion, and he’s involved in a project in Clondalkin in west Dublin that looks after neglected animals. Murtagh was an amiable presence on screen, as he met Wes and his young son, Luke, at the stables where they look after the horses. It was a far cry from the state-of-the-art stables that the pampered thoroughbreds Murtagh has ridden over his long and illustrious career call home. Yet there was no doubt that, in Wes’s hands, these lowlier nags were equally well looked after.
While the idea behind The Family Project feels a bit forced, the likeability of Wes’s family and Murtagh as their mentor got the series off to a good start. You have the feeling Cork- based single father Kieran O’Brien won’t know what’s hit him when mammy Mary O’Rourke pops in to give him a few pointers on family life tomorrow.
I’m never sure about archaeology on TV. I’d imagine it’s very rewarding to find a rusty piece of metal when you’ve been digging in a muddy field for three days, but that doesn’t mean it makes for good telly.
( Monday, BBC4) was intriguing, though. While the images of the bloody battlefields of the Western Front are all too alive in our imagination, what is less well remembered is the battle that went on underground, as tunnellers laboured in awful conditions to ‘undermine’ the enemy. As the presenter, historian Peter Barton, explained, this meant taking away layers of clay and stone inch by inch, in order to mine the other side’s positions. Most poignant was a piece of rock Barton and his colleagues discovered deep underground with a few lines of verse written by one of those long-forgotten men.
Finally, (Sunday, RTÉ One) stepped things up a gear, but there are still too many scenes that fail to drive the action forward – and forensics scenes work better when you don’t know who the killer is. Colin Stafford-Johnson (pictured) takes to the water for this major two-part documentary, which examines all aspects of life on our greatest river. Cutting-edge technology has been used to capture the river’s wildlife up close, including red squirrels leaping from tree to tree on the riverbank; kingfishers crashing through the surface of the water as they hunt for their dinner; the intimate goings-on in an egret colony high above the river; and pike mating in Lough Allen during the spawning season. Meanwhile, Colin gently paddles down the river, exploring its many tributaries, isles and inlets, before setting up camp for the night and reflecting on the delicate beauty of the Shannon. This promises to be a memorable addition to RTÉ’s impressive recent season of wildlife programming.