Jeremy Clark­son morphs from ar­ro­gant oaf to nice guy quiz mas­ter

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE - Philip Nolan He’s watch­ing what you’re watch­ing!

Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire? UTV/TV3, all week

The Great House Re­vival RTÉ 1, Sun­day

The Hard­est Har­vest RTÉ1, Wed­nes­day

ISTILL re­mem­ber the first time I saw Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire? in 1998. The ques­tions were so sim­ple, I won­dered at the lu­nacy of who­ever came up with the idea and how it made it into pro­duc­tion. Mul­ti­ple-choice ques­tions, three life­lines and only 15 cor­rect an­swers to win a mil­lion quid. Who could fail?

Then I re­alised the ge­nius of it. The prob­lem with multi-choice is not that it helps you iden­tify the cor­rect an­swer, but that the other three pos­si­ble an­swers make you doubt your­self. Many, many times over the years, I have seen con­tes­tants squan­der life­lines get­ting some­one else to val­i­date what they al­ready knew.

Chris Tar­rant was a ge­nius choice for host, be­cause he pro­vided space for the con­tes­tants, and not al­ways to help them make the cor­rect choice. With no time limit on an­swer­ing, they in­stead ploughed through rel­a­tive eter­ni­ties of self-doubt while ev­ery­one at home on the couch won­dered what class of gob­aloon they must be not to know that Derby County are known as the Rams? Oh, wait – maybe that’s Swin­don…

The prob­lem with the for­mat was not that too many peo­ple won the mil­lion, but too few. In the 16-year run of the show, only five peo­ple took home the top prize (six if you count the cough­ing ma­jor, Charles Ingram, who re­ceived a sus­pended prison sen­tence for de­cep­tion af­ter he was found cheat­ing), and view­er­ship dropped. To bal­ance the agony of loss, we also have oc­ca­sion­ally to wit­ness the joy of win­ning, and we didn’t see it of­ten enough.

It ended on British tele­vi­sion in 2014, but to cel­e­brate the 20th an­niver­sary of its de­but, it re­turned this week over seven nights, only with Jeremy Clark­son in the ques­tion-mas­ter’s seat. I’m no fan of Clark­son, and even though I also write about cars, I never was a fan of Top Gear. On the few oc­ca­sions I saw it, I hated the set-up, with Clark­son as the al­pha male, Richard Ham­mond as his lick­spit­tle toady, and James May, eas­ily the most eru­dite and learned of three, the butt of their in­sults.

Watch­ing some­one be­ing bul­lied and forced to just suck it up is not my idea of fun, and the very men­tion of the word ‘ban­ter’ gives me chills. That’s why I was sur­prised to find my­self warm­ing to Clark­son in this new role, de­signed as a one-off but suc­cess­ful enough, one would have thought, to merit a longer run.

Yes, he was more im­pa­tient than Tar­rant, but in an en­vi­ron­ment where, by definition, he was forced to play sec­ond fid­dle, much of his brag­gado­cio was neutered, to the point where he ac­tu­ally seemed em­pa­thetic. I wouldn’t be phon­ing him any time soon to be his friend, but where I’ve never be­fore given him the ben­e­fit of the doubt that he might ac­tu­ally be a nice per­son, I’m now at around 50/50.

Bede Tan­nock is a man who could do with win­ning Mil­lion­aire. The Aus­tralian ar­chi­tect bought derelict Bal­li­nafad House in Co. Mayo and set about spend­ing €500,000 on the initial restora­tion of part of the 110-room, 70,000sq.ft prop­erty. We fol­lowed him and his part­ner San­dra on The Great House

Re­vival, a new RTÉ show pre­sented by Hugh Wal­lace of Home Of The

Year fame. Bede’s ded­i­ca­tion to the task was in­spi­ra­tional. In the room that will now serve as a wed­ding re­cep­tion venue to gen­er­ate rev­enue to fund fur­ther works, he lifted the par­quet floor and cleaned ev­ery wooden tile by hand be­fore re-lay- ing them, and the re­sult af­ter sand­ing and var­nish­ing was ex­quis­ite.

The jury was out on whether he was a com­mit­ted preser­va­tion­ist or an ob­ses­sive, but there was no doubt­ing his com­mit­ment, which was in­spi­ra­tional. So, too, for the sec­ond time, was The Hard­est

Har­vest, which this week fol­lowed Howth trawler­man ‘Big’ John Hayes to Mozam­bique, where he spent a fort­night with fish­er­man Django and his fam­ily. Django and his work­mates use small boats with dodgy en­gines to head out to sea, but much of the wa­ters have been over­fished by fac­tory trawlers. Af­ter six hours spent haul­ing in a net, there was just a hand­ful of fish, worth about €1.50. How peo­ple sur­vive like that is be­yond our com­pre­hen­sion, but they do.

And what this proves is that all of us, whether we want to win a mil­lion, or re­store an old house, or just pro­vide for our fam­i­lies, dream. Big or small, it makes no dif­fer­ence. Dream­ing, in its undis­tilled sense, is what keeps us awake.

Aus­tralian Bede Tan­nock’s ded­i­ca­tion was in­spi­ra­tional Howth fish­er­man ‘Big’ John Hayes in Mozam­bique The Hard­est Har­vest Pre­sen­ter Jeremy Clark­son seemed em­pa­thetic for a change Who Wants To Be A Mil­lion­aire? The Great House Re­vival

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