Even some of its most ar­dent enthusiasts had be­gun to feel that enough was enough af­ter the first sea­son, but this spin-off looks set to be even more ni­hilis­tic

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

The fourth and fi­nal in­stal­ment of Na­tional Treasures (RTÉ1) took place in Gal­way, where a man brought along a foot­ball jer­sey for pre­sen­ter John Cree­don and his team of ex­perts to marvel at.

Ap­par­ently it had been worn in the 1991 vo­ca­tional schools fi­nal and marked one of the first times that the GAA had al­lowed a spon­sor’s name to fea­ture on their play­ing gear. I could barely con­tain my ex­cite­ment.

Other prof­fered items that set my pulse rac­ing in­cluded an An­cient Or­der of Hiber­ni­ans badge, a 1960s Aer Lin­gus trav­el­ling bag that had be­longed to ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter Frank Aiken and some mem­o­ra­bilia from Ireland’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Euro 88

These were among the “every­day ob­jects” men­tioned by John Cree­don at the out­set that ap­par­ently re­veal to us who we are as a peo­ple but that, up to now, had been “stored away in the at­tics, gar­den sheds and bot­tom draw­ers of Ireland”. On the ev­i­dence of this te­dious se­ries, they should have stayed there.

One of the ob­jects was ac­tu­ally a build­ing, a dance hall vis­ited by one of the pro­gramme’s ex­perts. It’s in Glen­farne, Co Leitrim and it’s called The Ball­room of Ro­mance, though bizarrely nei­ther the ex­pert nor the peo­ple he in­ter­viewed made any ref­er­ence to William Trevor’s great story of the same name or to Pat O’Con­nor’s mem­o­rable film ver­sion.

Clearly, though, RTÉ feels it has a solemn duty ev­ery cou­ple of years to make these navel-gaz­ing dab­blings, even though they are of lit­tle his­tor­i­cal sub­stance and even less viewer in­ter­est.

It’s in­clined, too, to let se­ries run way past their sell-by date. Cer­tainly the lat­est sea­son of At Your Ser­vice (RTÉ1) has been at a low and list­less ebb, with Fran­cis Bren­nan’s manic bon­homie seem­ing in­creas­ingly forced and brother John ab­sent­ing him­self from most of the pro­ceed­ings.

Per­haps they ac­tu­ally did care this week about the café, chil­dren’s play­ground and pet­ting zoo be­ing planned by mo­bile home own­ers Eleanor and Roy in Co Kerry, but from what was dis­cernible on screen it was hard to feel that they weren’t just go­ing through the con­trac­tual mo­tions.

And what about the con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions that were en­acted by Julie Etch­ing­ham and Trevor McDon­ald in In­vi­ta­tion to a Royal Wed­ding (ITV3)? What led two es­teemed cur­rent af­fairs broad­cast­ers to front such tosh?

The oc­ca­sion was the up­com­ing mar­riage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (you can binge-watch her in Net­flix re­runs of Suits), about which Julie and Trevor had ab­so­lutely no in­for­ma­tion to im­part, ex­cept that it would take place in the grounds of Wind­sor Cas­tle.

That, though, didn’t stop Trevor from as­sur­ing us that it would be “an eye-catch­ing spec­ta­cle of pageantry” or Julie breath­lessly promis­ing to re­veal “be­hind-the-scenes se­crets from those in the know”.

How­ever, none of these whistle­blow­ers ap­peared in the pro­gramme, though for­mer Vogue editor Alexan­dra Shul­man was on hand to dis­close that it had been “ut­terly thrilling” to get an in­vi­ta­tion to Will and Kate’s nup­tials seven years ago.

That event, ac­cord­ing to Trevor, had been watched by al­most twice as many peo­ple as had lined the streets for Charles and Diana’s wed­ding, and he as­sured us that the num­bers cheer­ing Harry and Meghan were “likely to ex­ceed all records”, but that was as fac­tual as this vac­u­ous pro­gramme got.

The Hand­maid’s Tale (RTÉ2) is back for a sec­ond sea­son and is even grim­mer than be­fore. The first sea­son, which con­cluded where Mar­garet At­wood’s orig­i­nal novel also ended, had been re­lent­lessly bleak, so much so that even some of its most ar­dent enthusiasts had be­gun to feel that enough was enough, but this spin-off looks set to be even more ni­hilis­tic.

In­deed, while it is bril­liantly di­rected and acted, es­pe­cially by Elis­a­beth Moss in the central role, I’ve a feel­ing that it’s go­ing to prove too much for some view­ers, my­self in­cluded.

And I won’t be tak­ing refuge with The Alienist (Net­flix), a 10-episode adap­ta­tion of Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel about the se­rial mur­ders and mu­ti­la­tions of chil­dren in the New York of the 1890s.

It’s not just the ex­plicit gris­li­ness of it all and it’s not just the gloom in which it’s mostly en­veloped, it’s also that the open­ing episode was so slug­gish that I felt no wish to con­tinue.

The Woman in White (BBC1), which I dis­missed last week af­ter its open­ing in­stal­ment, has proven to be a bet­ter bet, with Dougray Scott a prop­erly loath­some vil­lain and Jessie Buck­ley fas­ci­nat­ing in the central role, meekly dowdy at one mo­ment and lu­mi­nous the next.

And I was en­tirely won over by the Kil­lar­ney-born ac­tress’s ex­huber­ance on last week’s Late Late Show, es­pe­cially when Ryan Tubridy quoted a Ra­dio Times ar­ti­cle, which raved about how her “Irish ac­cent has been trans­formed, the gawky pos­ture im­proved and the curls tamed”.

Were you gawky and curly, Tubridy asked. Yes, she replied, “but I’m still Irish and I’m still gawky and awk­ward and curly some­where”. Tit­ters from the au­di­ence made her re­alise what she had just said and she col­lapsed in laugh­ter.

In this week’s sec­ond episode of Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope (RTÉ2), Ais­ling was still a self-ab­sorbed nar­cis­sist. “She hasn’t even asked me one sin­gle ques­tion about my­self,” Van­cou­ver-based Danielle re­marked to a friend, which neatly summed up both Ais­ling’s char­ac­ter and the show’s ba­sic prob­lem: how to make an ego­tist in­ter­est­ing, or at least bear­able.

But what is Danielle do­ing in Van­cou­ver? Those scenes must have cost some­thing. Couldn’t they have sent her to Birm­ing­ham in­stead?

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