If anyone accidentally deletes Ireland, ‘Nationwide’ is our back-up
For 25 years it has broadcast competent, ephemeral TV – whether we’re watching or not
Presenter Anne Cassin couldn’t have seemed more enthusiastic
The most endearing thing about Nationwide (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 7pm) on its midweek broadcast, was the benign assumption that anyone was watching at all. This was partly an accident of timing: the most immediate competition facing the national broadcaster’s grab bag of regional tidbits was a World Cup semi-final involving two countries close to Ireland’s heart: England, the former oppressor where we most like to emigrate, and Croatia, the Balkan survivor where we quite like to holiday.
Like the proverbial falling tree in the woods, Nationwide, which turns 25 this year, will still make a sound if there is no one there to watch it. That’s just as well, because anyone in command of a remote control who wanted to watch footage of a coach, was more likely to fixate on the intensely tailored Gareth Southgate than the lord chancellor’s 18th-century gilded carriage, stored in Newbridge House, Fingal.
That, however, was where the programme had retreated and presenter Anne Cassin couldn’t have seemed more enthusiastic about the whole thing, nor in a greater hurry to get it over with. “Impressive, isn’t it?” she says with the rhetorical surge of a tour guide who has walked the grounds a thousand times before.
Nationwide itself, competent and forgettable, isn’t that bothered about making an impression: this week’s episodes of ephemera included a programme on tidy towns and those who tend them, a report on “traditional and dying crafts”, and an investigation into how some people are using the internet to sell stuff.
You could argue that this provides a valuable record. If anyone accidentally deletes Ireland, for instance, Nationwide could be our back-up.
This episode was a classic example of Big House idolatry, fawning over the kitchen, the drawing room, the farm, the park, the history and the living descendants. “It’s a doubly beneficial arrangement,” the present owner admitted of its deal with the local authority, which maintains it as an amenity.
That is also true of the broadcast, essentially an infomercial for the house, which, in return, extracts enough content to fill the allotted airtime. “I think you’ll agree, there’s something for everyone,” Cassin said yet again. Indeed, it’s Nationwide’s job to find it, one show at a time.