It’s said that if you open up Marty Whe­lan’s suit you will find another suit, and so on unto eter­nity . . .

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - STUBS - PA­TRICK FREYNE

A CGI limousine nav­i­gates an en­chanted city of glow­ing an­i­mated sky­scrapers and huge shim­mer­ing por­traits of Marty Whe­lan, be­fore stop­ping at a cin­ema where a scary red-lipped, bell­boy ap­pears (he re­minds me a bit of the clown from It). Some dolled-up naïfs emerge from the limousine, hand him a ticket and the crim­son-clad ghoul leads them across the thresh­old of a multi-coloured cin­ema, which I sus­pect is ac­tu­ally a haunted pas­sage grave.

There, they meet Marty Whe­lan and his tele­vi­sion prodigy, plat­inum-haired Sinead Kennedy, cur­rent over­seers of

Win­ning Streak (RTE1, Satur­day), an eerie pro­gramme about the va­garies of chance based on Shirley Jack­son’s short story The

Lottery (editor’s note: It’s ac­tu­ally a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional Lottery).

The set of Win­ning Streak is what I imag­ine Marty Whe­lan’s house looks like. It’s all ab­stract shapes and glow­ing crys­talline struc­tures and bleep­ing 1970s com­puter sounds, and is over­looked by a large im­pos­ing de­ci­sion wheel, like the one Whe­lan has in his bed­room.

Win­ning Streak is the long­est run­ning quiz show in the world and has seen many eras – the gilded age of the laugh­ing prince (Mike Mur­phy), the dread reign of the shadow lord (Derek Mooney), happy-happy-boom- time when peo­ple played for Faberge eggs, en­chanted scrolls (prop­erty deeds) and good qual­ity deck­ing, and “the great dark­ness” when peo­ple played for canned goods, firearms and the home phone num­bers of their mort­gage ad­vi­sors.

Fac­ing Whe­lan and Kennedy are around 70 peo­ple of all ages, on stacked seat­ing, wav­ing home­made signs and shout­ing un­der the heat of the stu­dio lights. This is what the RTÉ Au­thor­ity pic­tures when they talk about “the public” – a ho­moge­nous multi­gen­er­a­tional mass wav­ing card­board and speak­ing in uni­son.

Whe­lan has an oth­er­worldy er­mine pelt af­fixed to his age­less skull (though he claims it to be the hair of a saintly child) and an al­most un­be­liev­ably per­fect mous­tache that re­sem­bles a furry lip guard or hair-hedge about which many po­ems have been writ­ten (I ini­tially in­serted a few lines from the Song of

Solomon here, but ap­par­ently it was “weird”). It’s said that if you open up his suit you will find another suit and then another suit, and so on unto eter­nity. Kennedy is smi­ley with the hair of a Dis­ney princess.

Trans-di­men­sional oc­cult

To­gether they re­mind me, some­how, of trans-di­men­sional oc­cult de­tec­tives Sap­phire and Steel. They have an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for per­son­alised trivia which they con­sume like suc­cubae: “You’re a divil for cook­ing,” says Marty to a lady who is ac­com­pa­nied by a stuffed hedge­hog and is, in­deed, a divil for the cook­ing. They are funny and ethe­real and pa­ter­nal­is­tic “Good girl your­self” they say or “Best of luck my friend” or “Well done, Daugh­ter of Eve.”

There are many games that are es­sen­tially the same game. There’s one called Trap Door, which, sadly, doesn’t in­volve a trap door. When it’s time to pick next week’s con­tes­tants, Whe­lan and Kennedy wield knives and I as­sume they’re go­ing to di­vine the iden­ti­ties from sac­ri­fi­cial en­trails, but in­stead they just use the knives to open letters plucked from a sort of tombola.

In all the games, you can win cash and hol­i­days and cars. It’s nice to watch peo­ple win things and to watch other peo­ple be­ing pleased for them.

And then things turn, as they al­ways must, to the wheel. “Spin that wheel,” say Whe­lan and Kennedy to­gether. The wheel is spun. Money is won. Golden stars fall from the sky.

“The public” ad­vance, a stone in each hand. “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” some­one screams, and then they are upon her.

A Daugh­ter’s Night­mare

This week Life­time in Amer­ica aired a new TV movie Deadly

Adop­tion star­ring Will Fer­rell and Kristin Wiig. It’s an in-joke we’ll have to wait to watch on this side of the At­lantic, so I’m mak­ing do with A Daugh­ter’s

Night­mare (Life­time, Thurs­day) fea­tur­ing Paul Jo­hans­son, a cuboid chunk of ham that once played an evil pa­tri­arch in One

Tree Hill – a pro­gramme about emo­tional bas­ket­ball.

Life­time movies are de­signed to turn peo­ple into stranger-fear­ing ago­ra­phobes. In this one, a re­cently be­reaved mother and daugh­ter (sad pi­ano mu­sic) are be­friended by a cuboid hunk of ham, who turns out to have Mun­chausen’s by Proxy and tries to kill ev­ery­one (dis­con­cert­ing syn­the­siser tones).

There were, in ret­ro­spect, a num­ber of red flags about hammy (sepia flash­back).

1. The ham has sev­eral pre­ma­turely dead wives. “Well, enough about my de­press­ing past,” he says of his dead wives.

2. He “knows more about med­i­cal stuff than most doc­tors.”

3. He likes to loom into shot from the shad­ows. It’s like he’s in­vis­i­ble. Also, he’s named Adam Smith, like the lib­eral economist who first came up with the idea of “the in­vis­i­ble ham”.

4. and His when own it’s dog foundis ter­ri­fied dead, heof him, laugh­slo­cal urchin ma­ni­a­cal­lyto bury an­dit. gets a

5. mu­sic When goes no-oneevil an­dis look­ing,he makes the an evil face. (Note to self: Do I do this?)

6. He gets the be­reaved mother to drink cup af­ter cup of his “well­ness tea” (this isn’t a rude eu­phemism).

7. His dis­turbed step­son of­ten has a ban­dage around his mir­ror-punch­ing hand. Shush now, have some “well­ness tea.”

8. The be­reaved mother re­peat­edly blacks out and feels sicker and sicker and goes blind. You know what she needs? That’s right. A cup of “well­ness tea”.

9. Ev­ery­one is sick and dy­ing. “Well­ness tea” for all!

10. Ev­ery­thing he says sounds sus­pi­cious when you play it all to­gether as a sepia flash­back with scary mu­sic.

11. Some­times he mut­ters: “I’m a good boy, momma. I’m a good boy.” Although, to be fair, this is near the end of the film, when his mur­der­ous ways are well es­tab­lished, and sure what woman doesn’t find de­ranged Freudian mut­ter­ings at­trac­tive in a man?

There are many games that are es­sen­tially the same game. There’s one called Trap Door, which, sadly, doesn’t in­volve a trap door

Age­less skull: Marty Whe­lan

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