Television: I’m in no mood for dancing – and curling has lost its appeal, too
The BBC’s Winter Olympics coverage is a victory for biased tub-thumping, while a documentary on The Nolans has nothing new to add to the pop sisters’ story
Snow business: Jenny Jones of Great Britain competings in the snowboard women’s slopestyle at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA
It says a lot about the slim pickings on TV this week that curling quickly became my default viewing ( Live Winter Olympics , BBC One and Two, daily). But by Wednesday, even the attraction of that has waned, what with all the manic sweeping and the shouting and the commentators filling empty airtime with random comments because there really isn’t much to say about the stones being in or out of the house (that’s the great big bullseye – Winter Olympics coverage is a one-stop shop for a pub quiz’s worth of information).
I can’t tell if the BBC’s Olympic coverage is up to scratch. There’s certainly a lot of it and, because it’s for a home audience, it’s mostly concentrating on sports that British athletes have a chance in. It’s all “Team GB” talk, reasonably enough, with main presenter Clare Balding doing the most tub-thumping. You expect some bias – and in the same situation an Irish commentary team would no doubt be worse – but it gets a bit wearisome, and when it reaches its extreme conclusion, as it does on Monday during the snowboard women’s slopestyle final, it sounds unprofessional.
As British competitor Jenny Jones edges her way towards a medal (she wins bronze), the BBC commentators go into hysterical overdrive, roaring random words of support and cheering when her competitor falls, a reaction that, like so many other things, is fine but only in the privacy of your own sofa.
Even the Nolan sisters admit that it was never cool to like The Nolans – though play the first few bars of I’m in the Mood for Dancing and there can’t be many people over 40 who won’t instinctively sing along. The singing Irish sisters were huge in the 1970s and 1980s; they were regulars on the top British TV variety shows and they sold more than 30 million albums. At the height of it, they were big in Japan, even doing a crowd-pleasing version of their hit song in Japanese – not bad for a gang of girls from Raheny.
By 1990, their career was on the wane; Bernie Nolan admitted in a clip from an interview with Gerry Ryan that they should have quit sooner. One of their last TV gigs here was on RTÉ’s afternoon show Live at Three . The sight of them singing and dancing on a postage-stamp sized set with fake potted plants and a dismal bit of trellis in the background said it all.
Over their long career together (some were as young as three when they started playing the working men’s clubs in Britain) the sisters fell in and out with each other, one accused their father of abuse, and three had cancer; Bernie died last year.
All this is well known, so a new hour-long film, The Nolans (RTÉ One, Monday), should offer more, but this was old-fashioned documentary-making: headshots of the women talking were interspersed with clips of their TV performances and a couple of snaps from the family album.
The voiceover, by the actor Stephen Brennan, was so gloomy and ponderous it would have suited a documentary on the pension crisis, not a romp through the career of a successful girl-pop band.
Without a strong editorial focus, too many questions were left hanging, the most obvious one being: where did the money go? They say they didn’t make it, so who did? And why, at some stages, were there sometimes six singing Nolans, sometimes five, other times four, and what was it really like to be that famous and then not famous at all? And if the sisters have nothing new to say – and they don’t appear to – why not broaden it out with contributors who could give a proper feel for their heyday, and maybe put their success and the wholesome image created for them (a tediously sore point with all the sisters) in perspective?
So while I looked forward to and was disappointed by The Nolans , the exact opposite applied to Would You Believe: A Claddagh from Manuela (RTÉ One, Sunday). I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch a documentary on Manuela Riedo, the 17-year-old Swiss girl who was raped and murdered in Galway. Sunday is a brace-yourself-for-the-week-ahead night, which is prime for undemanding entertainment, and this was never going to fit that bill, which was part of my trepidation.
There’s also the fear that anything about a murder will somehow join the sorry glut of true-crime programmes that come with a whiff of exploitation and a pong of sensationalism – TV3 can’t seem to churn them out fast enough, complete with grisly, frightening reconstructions. Its latest is Kidnapped: Ireland’s Tiger Raids (TV3, Tuesday) and the station has wrung yet another series out of 24 Hours to Kill (TV3, Monday) about “killings which tore families apart and struck fear in the heart of the nation”.
This Would You Believe programme sticks to its broad brief – it’s in the religious strand of the station’s public-service programming – and features Riedo’s parents, Arlette and Hans-Peter, at home in Switzerland and on their many visits to Galway since their daughter’s murder. Through interviews with them and several local people who have in some way been affected by the murder, it sensitively explores topics of forgiveness, faith, grief, loss and, interestingly, the acute sense of shame felt by Galwegians that such a tragedy could happen on their patch, perpetrated by one of their own.
The last scene in Line of Duty (BBC2, Wednesday), the police series about a unit investigating bent coppers, which is headed up by Supt Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar, never better), is so ferociously surprising it raises the bar very high for next week. No spoilers, but it’s not often you get to use the word “defenestration” in a review.
It’s a tightly plotted drama with every single character, especially the females ones, so well written that just a few lines of writer Jed Mercurio’s dialogue nails them. And it has that rare thing: a pressing momentum without appearing rushed. There’s a mole in the police: someone has tipped off the bad guys about the whereabouts of a witness and, in the opening scene, the convoy transporting the witness to a safe house is ambushed, and he and three police officers are killed.
Hastings suspects the informer might be the only officer who survived, DI Lindsay Denton (a superb Keeley Hawes, playing against her usual posh-totty type). That’s the simple mystery to be solved, but it’s worth watching for the complex characters and the suspense.