Television: Daniel and Majella having a lark in the great Irish B&B off
Review: Daniel and Majella’s B&B Road Trip; The Great Irish Bake-off; Jekyll and Hyde
Fáilte: Daniel and Majella O’Donnell with B&B owners Anne and Noel Sheerin, in Tulsk, Co Roscommon, for Daniel and Majella’s B&B Road Trip
For a long moment I am seriously worried about Anne Sheerin, B&B owner in Tulsk, Co Roscommon (Daniel and Majella’s B&B Road Trip, UTV Ireland, Monday). She’s standing at her window and she’s crying and laughing at the same time; her face has gone a dangerous shade of puce – the colour of her road-side B&B – and she’s saying “wow” loudly over and over like a crazed mantra. And the reason? Daniel and Majella O’Donnell, her overnight guests, are pulling into her driveway.
We’ve seen her preparing for the visit – the good china, new hanging baskets, a last-minute slick of lipstick – she’s properly, unashamedly starstruck. There’s none of your urban cool, “no one makes a fuss of celebrities in Ireland, we’ve all seen Bono on Grafton Street” malarkey.
Once her guests have settled, Sheerin leads them triumphantly, like an exotic offering to her friends and neighbours, into the local community hall for dancing and a singalong. Back in the B&B, a still overwhelmed Sheerin says she’s so excited to have O’Donnell under her roof for “a whole night” and you wonder is it all going to go a bit Misery and he is to spend the rest of his days trapped in a Roscommon B&B.
It’s safe to assume (or hope) she’s not as excitable about all her guests.
It’s a lark, this series. And Daniel and Majella are the real deal: a genuine enthusiasm and sense of fun radiates from them. Celeb TV travelogues are two-a-penny, and dull, largely because you suspect the presenters are waiting until the cameras are turned off to let their hair down and have a good time. Not that the immaculately coiffed Daniel is one for tousling his barnet: this, after all, is a man who we’ve just seen on Strictly Come Dancing, who can do the cha-cha-cha without a hair slipping out of place.
The inspired idea for the series is per the title: the married duo travel around staying a night in different B&Bs. Majella drives while Daniel sings and comments on the scenery in his deadpan style. “He’s not moving. He must be paying rent for the road,” he says, as they pass a farmer and his dog.
This just might be the most Irish series I’ve seen all year. Daniel and Majella are our very own celebrities; and the Irish B&B, with its frilly valances on the beds, peach colour schemes, shiny pine furniture and colourful owners, is a national institution. Kudos also to VIP Productions, who made series, for not taking the easy tourist options and for starting with a county that doesn’t get much exposure.
I wonder, though, about the choices in the new series of The Great Irish Bake-off (TV3, Sunday). Of the 12 contestants, I’m not sure if at least half of them can, in fact, bake, or at least to anywhere near the standard we’ve seen on the BBC.
At this point I should declare an interest (sort of). The TV3 press release tells me Neil Reid works for Myhome.ie, an Irish Times company. In the lift one day, I hear from one of his colleagues that he’s always bringing in cakes. Which is lovely for them, except Reid works on a different floor and I’ve never even seen him or his baked goods. But you’d have to feel a little sorry him, even as he is admitting his cockiness has contributed to his rubbish bakes.
For the technical challenge the contestants have to make three perfect cheesecakes. Judge Paul Kelly shows what they should look like: a perfectly formed cylindrical confection with a chocolate lattice outer layer.
Neil’s collapses in such a wet heap he serves one in a soup bowl. Imagine what Mary Berry would say. Half of the others were only marginally better. No one could do the lattice bit. And only one person is eliminated: Sandra, whose cake looks like a car ran over it.
The judges, including new judge Lilly Higgins (who does a weekly recipe for The Irish Times), are exceptionally kind and encouraging, much like the way a parent is when their child presents them with their first misshapen lump of school-made pottery.
But they seem a likeable bunch and, crucially, interesting enough for the months of TV they have to deliver. Anna “let’s get ready to crumble” Nolan is presenting again, and she’s relaxed and smoothly professional.
With its tent location and pastel colours, The Great Irish Bake-off looks convincingly like its BBC mothership but, wait, what’s that? A packet of a margarine that isn’t in any recipe, as far as I can see? But there it is on the countertop, in its gold wrapper, beside glass flour containers with a sponsor’s name stuck all over them. All this in-programme promotion gets stale very quickly.
The new fantasy adventure version of Jekyll and Hyde (UTV Ireland, Sunday) starts off in ye olde foggy Victorian London with a snaggle-toothed Mr Hyde brutally dispatching some citizens (it’s a teatime drama to lure the Dr Who crowd over to ITV, so the level of gore and violence is surprising). The action briskly moves to a bright and sunny Ceylon in the 1930s – the show has a dreamy sense of time travel – and we meet a dashing Dr Jekyll (Tom Bateman), a kind, young doctor with a bit of a temper and superhuman strength in stressful situations.
Then it’s back to London because Dr Jekyll has learned he has inherited his grandfather’s fortune – and his transformative temper.
I don’t know how much screenwriter Charlie Higson owes to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, but my guess is he grew up watching Bill Bixby and The Incredible Hulk: Dr Jekyll is just short of saying Bixby’s famous line – “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” – before he has one of his big, theatrical, neck-vein throbbing outbursts.
By the end of episode one he’s loose in London without his calming pills and the secret service (led by Richard E Grant, and with at least one mutant on his staff) is out to find him. This is a cartoonish (in a big brash, good way) adaptation and it’s shaping up to be a clever, stylish take on an old story.
Ones to Watch: Keep calm and lick your fingers
Every year the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) holds a competition to find the best new home in Britain, and in this four-part Grand Designs (Channel 4, Wednesday) Kevin McCloud looks at the houses in the running for the prestigious Riba House of the Year Award 2015.
Monday seems a low-key night for Simply Nigella (BBC2), a six-part series from the queen of TV cookery shows. It sounds like, in her own fingerlicking way she’s ticking two zeitgeisty boxes: mindfulness and clean eating. In this first episode, Nigella introduces us to “quick and calm” recipes.