Cynthia Ní Mhurchú’s re­called be­ing low­ered on a plat­form from the ceil­ing of the Point, which she likened to ‘the de­scent of the Holy Spirit from heaven’. If you say so, Cynthia

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

At the end of Tues­day night’s Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test semi-fi­nal (RTÉ2), Ryan O’Shaugh­nessy was clearly thrilled to have won through to tonight’s fi­nal, though not as thrilled as Marty Whe­lan. For the pre­vi­ous two hours the RTÉ host had been fret­ting about this “semi-fi­nal of death”, and as nine of the ten fi­nal­ists were an­nounced from the Lis­bon stage you could hear the doom in his voice. How would the na­tion man­age to sur­vive a fifth year of such ig­nominy? And would Marty re­quire post-trau­matic stress ther­apy?

Then came the magic word, de­claimed in uni­son by two of the four fe­male pre­sen­ters: “Ire­land!”. And at once there was no con­tain­ing Marty. “Thank God for that”, he gasped. “I’m not the bet­ter of that. My God almighty. I’m like a child here I’m so happy. Oh, I’m so thrilled, I’m only fit to lie down in a dark­ened room”.

Well, you can never say of Marty that he doesn’t take his job se­ri­ously but you’d worry about him all the same: all that un­re­strain­able emo­tion and all for what? I just hope he makes it through tonight’s fi­nal without hav­ing a melt­down.

Still, it was more ar­rest­ing than the pre­vi­ous night’s Good Evening Europe Agus Anois an Euro­vi­sion (RTÉ1), in which six fe­male Ir­ish pre­sen­ters of the con­test down through the years rem­i­nisced about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

The prob­lem was that none of them had any­thing in­ter­est­ing to say, un­less your def­i­ni­tion of in­ter­est­ing in­cludes Cynthia Ní Mhurchú’s rec­ol­lec­tion of be­ing low­ered on a plat­form from the ceil­ing of the Point, which she likened to “the de­scent of the Holy Spirit from heaven”. If you say so, Cynthia.

Mary Kennedy re­called hav­ing to walk down a thir­teen-step stair­case without fall­ing, while oth­ers had fond mem­o­ries of their out­fits — Doire­ann Ní Bhri­ain declar­ing: “I wore a beau­ti­ful dress, I must say”, and Ber­nadette Ní Ghallchóir rav­ing, “Oh, the dress, it truly was a beau­ti­ful dress”.

But there were no rev­e­la­tory tit­bits here, no amus­ing ob­ser­va­tions or any sense of what it had been like to be host­ing a show for an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence of mil­lions.

We’ve had Room to Im­prove and Home of the Year and Celebrity Home of the Year and now RTÉ’s ob­ses­sion with ed­i­fices con­tin­ues with The Great House Re­vival (RTÉ1), a six-part se­ries in which ar­chi­tect Hugh Wal­lace gets to em­ploy the su­perla­tives he hasn’t al­ready used up in two of those pre­vi­ous shows.

Wal­lace may not be quite the “leg­end” that RTÉ deems him to be in its pub­lic­ity, but he’s cer­tainly an en­thu­si­ast (hence all those su­perla­tives) and he was a con­ge­nial host in this week’s open­ing in­stal­ment, which fo­cused on Bal­li­nafad House in Co Mayo, a de­cay­ing 1820s man­sion that had been used as a sem­i­nary and school by the So­ci­ety of African Mis­sions un­til they aban­doned it some decades ago.

Featuring 110 rooms with 344 win­dows, the place was bought in 2013 for a mere €80,000 by Aus­tralian ar­chi­tect and cab­i­net-maker Bede Tan­nock, whose Perth-based girl­friend San­dra thought he was in­sane but who has spent the last five years turn­ing some of it into a wed­ding venue — we saw the nup­tials of two gay friends be­ing cel­e­brated there.

When he wasn’t ex­claim­ing “As­ton­ish­ing!” and “Amaz­ing!”, Wal­lace proved to be an en­gag­ingly un­fussy and in­quir­ing host, while Tan­nock was an in­trigu­ing in­ter­vie­wee, cool al­most to the point of de­tach­ment but clearly ab­sorbed in his mam­moth task. The pro­gramme it­self was ab­sorb­ing, too.

Un­fussy is not a word you’d use about Fran­cis Bren­nan, who in this week’s At Your Ser­vice (RTÉ1) was also in a large build­ing, a 43-bed­room Car­rick­macross ho­tel that had been closed since 2009 un­til bought by Eileen and Keith, who had a bud­get of €1 mil­lion with which to trans­form it.

There were the usual set­backs com­mon to this se­ries and the cus­tom­ary rac­ing against dead­lines, though of course ev­ery­thing even­tu­ally got done. What we’re never told, though, in this long-run­ning show is how th­ese en­ter­prises have fared in the weeks or months af­ter fussy Fran­cis has given them his seal of ap­proval. Are some of them even still in busi­ness?

Twenty years af­ter its first screen­ing, ITV brought back Who Wants to be a Mil­lion­aire? (TV3), though this time with Chris Tar­rant re­placed by Jeremy Clark­son, who im­me­di­ately put his stamp on pro­ceed­ings by show­ing his con­tempt for com­peti­tor Tom.

Tom, who seemed a nice young man, dithered over which English county housed the Black­pool tower, only to be told that “there are peo­ple in Ari­zona who’d know the an­swer to that”. Clark­son also in­formed him that if he didn’t win at least £1,000 “you’re go­ing to be mocked by the friends you don’t have”, and when Tom said he’d love to visit ei­ther Aus­tralia or New Zealand, Clark­son snorted, “Well, they’re not the same, you know”.

Fans of Clark­son would prob­a­bly ar­gue that he was giv­ing this old for­mat an ap­pro­pri­ately abra­sive edge, but as I can’t stand his bom­bas­tic lad-mag per­sona any­way, I just thought him crass.

I watched the first in­stal­ment of the nine-episode Rain (Net­flix) but didn’t feel in­clined to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther. This Dan­ish apoc­a­lyp­tic drama be­gan ar­rest­ingly with a man rush­ing his fam­ily to the safety of an un­der­ground bunker be­fore a toxic rain­fall did for them all, but it quickly got im­plau­si­ble when the teenage daugh­ter ig­nored the in­struc­tion to keep the door closed, thus caus­ing her mother’s im­me­di­ate demise.

Maybe it will all be­come in­ter­est­ing again, but life is short and there are too many se­ries out there to be ex­plored.

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