Anne Doyle was an enigma across her decades as first lady of television news. And the former newsreader's mystique endures in the opening episode of Keys to My Life (RTÉ One, Sunday, 8.30pm).
Seeking to capitalise on the Irish obsession with snooping around other people's houses – it helps if the people are famous, but it isn't mandatory – the new series sees the traditional random celebs (David Norris and Johnny Logan feature in future weeks) treading the boards of memory lane.
Brendan Courtney, the programme's presenter, brings a gently laconic quality to what is a fine piece of rambling escapism. He is in his element as he and Doyle potter about her home town of Ferns, in Co Wexford, and take an amble in a replica of her sister's old Simca Aronde car. (Inevitably it breaks down, after part of the dashboard detaches itself.)
Doyle radiates the dry humour of someone who finds life essentially absurd, even as she remains fundamentally unknowable. She does grow emotional recalling that she was holidaying in Spain when she discovered her mother had died, of a fast-acting pneumonia.
And she smiles at the memory of young love as an old school pal recounts the romantic letters Doyle would receive from her long-haired first boyfriend.
The closest thing to a bombshell is her revelation that the higher-ups in RTÉ were not thrilled when she playfully kissed Brendan O’Connor on the panel show Don’t Feed the Gondolas, 20 years ago.
Unhelpfully, the Co Wexford house where Doyle grew up, alongside six siblings, has been demolished. Instead Courtney takes her to her first bedsit, in Ranelagh in Dublin, and to a nearby cottage where she lived with a former partner.
Her current home is no less fascinating. In Dublin’s south inner city, it brims with curios, including huge bird statues and a tiny reading room where she enjoys the occasional vodka.
Doyle admits that, though serious about her job as newsreader, she didn’t necessarily love it. And it is obvious that she hasn’t let it define her, particularly since her retirement, in 2011. So it’s a surprise to find, in her present residence, that she has been immortalised in several framed pictures, including a series of Warhol-style psychedelic images.
In such random nuggets you are afforded a glimpse into a stranger’s soul. Keys to My Life is too slight to be profound. But at time when turning on the television can feel like an exercise in masochism, it sates the very Irish craving to know just a little more about the lives of others.