Francis Brennan’s cruise-ship show feels like a glorified infomercial
In Francis Brennan – All Hands on Deck, the ebullient hotelier has finally gone overboard
Francis Brennan seems uncharacteristically unsure of himself
At an early juncture in Francis Brennan’s latest venture before the camera, the ebullient hotelier find himself considering the demands of a local broadcaster that caters to a captive audience of predominantly older viewers. This local station has an awful lot of hours to fill, and no entertainment format is too light to help fill them.
Brennan, the star of hospitality make-over show At Your Service, surprise holiday show Francis Brennan’s Grand Tour, and now a glorified cruise-ship infomercial Francis Brennan – All Hands on Deck (RTÉ, Sunday, 9.30pm), seems right at home. “It’s better than RTÉ!” he marvels at cruise ship’s onboard television channel. You have to take his word for it.
What we do see of the ship’s broadcast output involves a game show in which passengers avoid saying Yes or No to a litany of questions.
Brennan, in a crisp white sailor’s uniform, briefly fulfils the role of host. “Are you going to beat your wife?” he asks one spouse contestant, as though icecaps wouldn’t melt. Otherwise, though, Brennan seems uncharacteristically unsure of himself. The show hints at something similar, as though finally his effervescent ubiquity had left him all at sea, an anchor of advice and instruction, now set adrift.
It’s hard to determine a reason behind All Hands on Deck, othwerwise. Like the Yes or No game, or another popular cruise-ship entertainment where passengers bet on which lift will arrive first, it looks like something pitched in a panic.
Where Brennan’s role on his other shows is to solve business problems or surprise besotted tourists with exotic destinations, here he’s asked to shadow crew members across three episodes, like a cadet.
“Frances will have to earn his stripes,” goes the nudging voice-over. Why? Is he leaving land behind? Francis tackles no challenge more complicated here than leading a line-dance session, something another staff member does anyway. We discover late that he has a group of Irish and Australian women to chaperone around the port of Saint Petersburg, but no context for this.
The only real consistency in the show is a heavy ballast of statistics we get about the boat, the Regal Princess of Princess Cruises, with its 3,500 guests, 1,800 cabins, 1,500 staff, 12 restaurants and elevator-prediction entertainments that sound like the product of advanced cabin fever. The sinking feeling is that we are watching a silver-audience-friendly personality hopping aboard an advertisement.
You could say the same of most holiday shows, whose commercial considerations may not be exclusively at your service. Brennan, though, doesn’t seem to bring his usual enthusiasm to asking the variety show troupe about performing on water and land (“You’d love to jump in the air and land in the same spot,” one dancer observes of the challenges of the ocean).
Nor, despite the elegance of Saint Petersburg, does he seem much more in his element leading a royal wave from the box of the Marinsky Theatre (“Mary has it right!”)
Brennan’s personality is no less charming, but in his other shows it adds decoration to his desire to teach or learn. Here, he jumps between both impulses but lands in another spot. This time, perhaps, the irrepressible hotelier has finally gone overboard.