Not waving but sinking - in a deluge of pomp and ceremony


TV REVIEW:MEMORIES OF LAST weekend’s Late Late 50th Anniversary Special (RTÉ One) prevented this column taking quite so much pleasure in the bags the BBC made of Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee coverage. Someone decided that the showpiece event, the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant (BBC One, Sunday), would be much better if celebrities were dotted at random around the flotilla, so Maureen Lipman was peering out from a barge, Richard E Grant was on a bridge talking about underpants and Clare Balding was trying to get a rowing crew to say something interesting.

And the commentary, which laid on the hyperbole (inevitably, I suppose), talked up how happy the queen looked (which she didn’t) and how much she was enjoying herself (she looked bored), even though no sensible person could be having a good time bobbing around in a boat in a downpour.

And you couldn’t hear the music or even see much of the boats, what with the cutting back and forth between wittering celebs. But the real problem that’s exercising them over in Blighty is the BBC presenters and their lapses in gravitas. Culled from the more excitable youth wing of the broadcaster, they frequently didn’t quite know who was who (though with all those samey gold epaulettes and people dressed like toy soldiers, who could blame them?) and kept doing fantastically inappropriate things. Fearne Cotton and Paloma Faith discussed jubilee memorabilia and how useful the sick bag with the queen’s face on it might be.

BEACHED ON THEsofa for a rainy weekend, watching the jubilee coverage because nothing much else was on, there should have been some pleasure in seeing that the Beeb can get it wrong – that’s if I hadn’t been wondering whether scrubbing my eyeballs with a Brillo pad might remove the images planted there by the anniversary Late Late.

If you’ve managed to forget Sinéad O’Connor’s creepy story about the first time she met Gay Byrne, Dustin’s offensive and unfunny quip about three men and a bike, Liam Neeson’s incoherence or the rest of the boring drivel, good for you. As the night dragged on even Ryan Tubridy had the look of a man who might at any moment clutch his head and do a passable impersonation of The Scream. Why didn’t they make it shorter? The first 40 minutes, when Gay Byrne and Pat Kenny were on gassing with Tubridy, was entertaining; the rest felt like more proof that The Late Late Show has run its course.

IN GRAYSON PERRY’Sintriguing three-part documentary All in the Best Possible Taste (Channel 4, Tuesday), the transvestite Turner Prize-winning potter explores his theory that “nothing has such a strong influence on our aesthetic taste as the social class we grow up in”.

In this week’s first part he was in Sunderland to look at working-class taste – a minefield of potential sneeriness. But as an Essex boy who had moved into the middle-class art world, he was curious and empathetic. He found a culture dominated by what he called taste tribes. The mines and industries are gone, replaced by gyms where young men bulk up. “This gym is the factory for building the membership of your tribe,” he said. Written down, that looks like arty nonsense, but when Perry said it, and the hard man he said it to nodded, pleased to be so understood, it seemed the most obvious thing in the world.

Tattoos are big. One young man explained that he was willing to spend £1,000 on a tattoo because the images meant something to him – his granny’s face, the Last Supper. “He spends proportionally more on art than a banker would on a Damian Hirst,” said Perry.

The women have big hair, high shoes and deep orange tans – “beauty you can measure with a ruler”. Getting ready to go out is a big deal, and Perry joined them done up to the nines (though toning down his usual look) on a girls’ night out. “The difference is that middle- class women put a lot of time into looking like they haven’t bothered.”

Next week’s look at middle-class taste in Milton Keynes mightn’t be so kind.

STEVEN BYRNE’Sdocumentary Making Magic Happen (RTÉ One, Tuesday) told the story of Listowel Writers’ Week, which celebrated its 40th year last year, and, as well as telling how the festival evolved from Bryan MacMahon and John B Keane’s original idea, it demystified the idea of a writers’ festival. It all looked so easy-going and relaxed, with well-known writers and musicians wandering round, giving talks and chatting among themselves.

You’d forgive the poor camera work – just – but what was a pity was how one-sided the film was. Writers gave long interviews about why they loved the festival, committee members talked at length about how they organised it, but what about the plain people? Why they go and what they get out of it would be just as interesting.

TO BE FAIRto the BBC and its jubilee coverage, filling airtime on unscripted big occasions is tricky. But it is possible. Just look at how adept Eileen Dunne was throughout the three-plus hours of the RTÉ News Special: Olympic Torch Relay (RTÉ One, Wednesday), which followed the flame as it went through the city. Anchoring the programme from the studio, she interviewed her panel of Olympic athletes, Paul Hession and Olive Loughnane, with an engaging ease, flipped back and forth between the action outside, introduced archive footage (including Ronnie Delany’s epic win in 1956) and dished out Olympic facts. There was never any doubt that if anything went horribly wrong, and someone legged it with the torch, she’d lose the smile, whip back into her trusted-newsreader persona and carry on.

“Think about it, okay: last year we had Barack Obama, this year we have the Olympic torch,” said one of the Jedwards on the stage on St Stephen’s Green, having relieved a bemused Sonia O’Sullivan of the torch. The crowd roared. “We’ll give it back to this guy,” said the other one. “This guy being the lord mayor, Andrew Montague,” said Dunne, knowing who’s who and with a smile on her face.

Get stuck into . . .

Dead Boss (BBC3, Thursday) is a new murder/mystery/comedy series written by the brilliant Sharon Horgan (right), who plays a woman imprisoned for killing her boss. Jennifer Saunders costars.

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