Danger, dieting and donning women's tights: all in a day's work for a jockey
It was, said the poet John Montague – an acerbic and amusing contributor – “one of the greatest matrimonial strokes in the history of literature”. The couple lived happily ever after.
I don’t remember hearing all that while learning The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and the documentary made the point that although students are familiar with Yeats, it’s with the early, safe romantic pieces chosen by the Department of Education.
A convincing case was also made that he isn’t even in Drumcliffe graveyard, in Sligo, and that when he died, in France, in 1939, the graveyard where he was interred was dug up and the bodies moved around to accommodate the war dead. The documentary included extraordinary footage, discovered by this film, in the depths of the National Archives of Ireland, of his repatriation, in 1948, for burial, with crowds lining the streets.
Maurice Sweeney makes beautiful-looking, intelligent but accessible documentaries, and this is a prime example of his meticulous and creative style. Having young contemporary poets, including Stephen James Smith, read Yeats’s work gave it a freshness, and serious heft was provided by an impressive roster of contributors, including Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Montague. An arts gem among the glut of political and current affairs programmes this week.
Brave, really, calling it Irish Pictorial Weekly (RTÉ One, Thursday) when Hall’s Pictorial Weekly, RTÉ’s satirical sketch show from the 1970s, is thought to have helped bring down the Fine Gael-Labour coalition. Now that’s setting the bar high.
But maybe back then it was shocking to see ministers satirised for their incompetence. Now it just seems depressing. Irish Pictorial Weekly had Barry Murphy’s absurdist, angry humour – familiar from Après Match – all over it, and it was sharp and clever. Most sketches worked: a Micheál Martin speech revoiced as gobbledegook; an odious “Terry Prone” hauling the unhealthy Minister for Health James Reilly into her office for a lambasting; the digs at Enda Kenny; and the spoof of Gay Byrne’s unctuous Meaning of Life programme, in which the guest was replaced by a beardy, boring Gerry Adams. The Taking, a spoof of the Gathering, showed politicians looking the definition of complacent smugness while a ticker tape showed their huge pay and pensions.
I nearly laughed several times, but it’s hard when everything you’re watching reminds you what a crowd of supplicant gobshites we’ve become. Good satire, then. A big quibble, though: why, for a programme with “weekly” in the title, was it not more topical? There was enough material for it to have used this week – or any week.
Ones to Watch: From room service to church service
Richard E Grant snagged the jammy job of touring the world’s finest hotels for Hotel Secrets (Sky Atlantic, Thursday). Next week he’s giving Ashford Castle, the Clarence, Castle Leslie and the Shelbourne the once-over.
The Other Voices concert series, filmed at St James’s Church in Dingle and now in its 11th year, will be broadcast live on RTÉ Two tomorrow. Aidan Gillen presents; Paul Buchanan and Villagers are among the acts.