From horses to cour­ses, stamina and self-be­lief are what it’s all about…

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR TV WEEK -

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.

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