The perils of stepping on Irish turf
that inspired his bleak 1988 classic Distant Voices, Still Lives, from his “psychotic and very, very violent” father to the family wounds reopened by his film.
But the most interesting aspect of the conversation came when Davies spoke about the lasting influence of his religious upbringing, despite now being a non-believer. When Barry asked her guest if he appreciated critical acclaim, he said yes but added that “being a lapsed Catholic, I feel I’ll fall into the sin of pride”.
Prodded by the host, Davies described how being brought up as a Catholic in “basically Protestant” England led to a siege mentality of righteousness that he had not completely shaken. “Once those things are put into you as a child, you never get rid of them.”
It was a good example of how illuminating insights can unexpectedly emerge at the hands of an underused presenter who combines easy charm with supplely gauged questions.
Such adroitness was missing in Irish Pictorial Weekly (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday), a new sketch show which falls short of the skewed satire it so obviously aspires to. Produced by Hugh Ormond and performed by a variety of acclaimed comic talents, including Barry Murphy and Gary Cooke of Après Match fame, the programme steers clear of the sledgehammer wit that marks Oliver Callan’s Nob Nation and Green Tea franchises.
But in taking a more leftfield approach, the show largely forgoes jokes altogether, leaving the often ropey celebrity impressions exposed.
A running gag about sportscaster Des Cahill hosting a homecoming reception for the signatories of the Anglo-Irish Treaty quickly ran out of steam, as did a sequence about Tom McGurk hosting Liveline. There were some smart moments – a sketch intercutting a fictional Denis O’Brien answering trite questions from the real-life Miriam O’Callaghan was quietly devastating – but the lack of bite compounded the show’s underlying air of smugness and fatal dearth of humour.
Those seeking subtle irony and wit would do better to seek out Frank Kelly’s vintage gems.
Radio moment of the week
Sean Moncrieff (Moncrieff, Newstalk, weekdays) displayed his perceptive drollness when he spoke to historian Caroline Shenton about the fire that gutted the British Houses of Parliament in 1834. “I’m sorry to say some people did blame the Irish,” said Shenton. “You don’t have to apologise,” said Moncrieff. “Half the people listening will be delighted.”
Sadly, he was probably correct.