It’s too soon for Reeling in the Years of Trump and Brexit

TV review: This isn’t a warning from history – it’s a warning from just the other day

How soon is too soon? That is the question posed by the latest season of Reeling In The Years (RTÉ One, Sunday), which takes world-shaking events from 2010 to 2019 and wraps them in a nostalgic bow. It's popular history glazed in a Polaroid filter and served up in 25 snackable minutes.

The series has now reached 2016 and a typically breezy episode packs it all in: Donald Trump running for the White House, the Brexit Referendum, Enda Kenny's re-election as Taoiseach, Ireland beating Italy at the European Championships, the Pokemon Go! craze.

Poured atop these shared recollections is a cavalcade of pop hits: Calvin Harris’s This Is What You Came For, Walking On Cars’s Speeding Cars and so forth.

It's characteristically slick. And yet these happenings are so fresh in the memory it is hard to feel any sort of yearning. We're all still at the point where we'd prefer to forget about Trump rather than look back at his political origin story. The same is true of Brexit, where Boris Johnson promising to lead Britain to its "independence day" still looms too large to merit a wistful look back.


Yet it cannot be denied that the mix of archive footage plus pop music makes for terrifically slick TV. It's also a jolt to be reminded of the Rio Olympics, where sailor Annalise Murphy and rowing siblings Paul and Gary O'Donovan placed on the podium. Or to see Dundalk winning in the group stages of the Europa League or Ireland toppling New Zealand at a rugby game in Chicago.

What Reeling In the Years in its new incarnation lacks is any real sense of poring back over history, which was part of the charm when it debuted in 1999. The past revisited here isn’t a foreign country – it isn’t even really the past. It’s part of a collective experience only just receding in the rear-view mirror.

The obvious solution would have been to allow another decade to elapse before moving forward with the series. But that would have caused frustration at RTÉ and potentially among viewers.

So it is perhaps best to enjoy Reeling In the Years: 2016 for what it is – a dummy’s guide to latter-day upheavals and, courtesy of the Trump and Brexit segments, a caution regarding the dangers of populists waving flags and promising simple solutions to complex issues.

In that regard it isn’t a warning from history – it’s a warning from just the other day.