Ardal O’Hanlon: Tomb Raider
BBC One, Monday 10.35pm
UTV, every night, 9 p.m
Has it really only been 10 years since Maeve Binchy, author of circle of friends, died ? It feels longer. The magic of the ordinary was a charming portrait of a woman with little time for institutions and all the time in the world for the people she immortalized in her work – both fictional and journalistic.
In the age of social media, it’s certainly good to know that back then, you could get yourself into just as much trouble by pissing off readers. “You’re a slutty bitch,” read one letter after she dared to suggest the royals looked a bit miserable at Princess Anne’s wedding (the footage shows they did, too).
Accompanied by her husband, the children’s author Gordon Snell, the program quickly ran through Binchy’s life – commemorating her meteoric success as a novelist (17 novels written, 43 million copies sold); through her struggles with debilitating arthritis and heart disease; for a discussion of her place in Irish writing and her legacy.
There was probably something defensive about insisting that Binchy’s work was “more” than just chick-lit. Ironically, this approach tends to dismiss popular writing for women as if it were something one doesn’t want to be associated with. You can take them seriously without downplaying the work of other authors.
Beyond that microscopic sophistication, producer/director Máire Kearney created a very special tribute to what Maeve’s friend Olivia O’Leary described as a “wonderful woman” who “treated the world and all of us lightly.”
And Snell’s white cat, who insisted on being in virtually every shot, was just beautiful. A cat star is born. This cat deserves a show of its own.
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Years ago I sent a friend something I had written and asked him what he thought of it. Her response began, “Here’s what you should have written instead…”
I hesitate to do the same when talking about it Great Lighthouses of Ireland. Shows should be judged on their own merits, not what I want them to do.
As such, this new series ticked many boxes as it told the fascinating story of how the Fastnet lighthouse was built off the coast of Cork to withstand the sea; and the terrible storm during the 1979 Fastnet Race that killed 19 people.
However, what I really wanted was more personal stories from the lighthouse keepers who made these places their homes.
There was a bit of that, as two former wardens recalled in the cramped quarters of some lighthouses, where bedrooms were scarcely wider than the bunks themselves, and where young men had to spend extended periods with men in their fifties with whom they had little in common , with not even a TV to while away the long hours. But I wanted more.
Alternatively, I would have happily spent the hour watching the stunning drone footage of lighthouses that accompanied the programme, from St John’s Point in Co Down to Loop Head in Clare and Little Samphire in Co Kerry. It was all the work of cinematographer Billy Keady.
Those behind the camera don’t get enough recognition for their work, because it’s the pictures that I turn on again with excitement.
Ardal O’Hanlon: Tomb Raider was a very different prospect, although perhaps the title was deceptive. The original Tomb Raider is a fast and frenetic video game.
Stylistically, O’Hanlon is the polar opposite, leaning more towards a gentle, amused detachment.
Here he was on the trail of an archaeological dig in the 1930s that attempted to locate the first inhabitants of the island after partition. It was, as he put it, “not a quest for gold or treasure,” but for “who we really are.”
Kind of like Who do you Think You Are? but with a shovel.
It was a pleasant hour to watch, with a subtle warning about the “dangerous game” of using false archeology to make claims about racial purity. As it turns out, the Irish are mixed race, with bits and pieces of genetics coming from everywhere from Russia to Africa and every point in between.
The show’s conclusion was that Irishness belongs to whoever makes Ireland their home, which is more politics than genealogy but well intentioned.
What’s great about Ardal O’Hanlon is that he doesn’t take the spotlight like so many comedians or actors do when they’re invited, which is increasingly the case, to present popular documentaries in that spirit.
He genuinely cares about what other people have to say and is content to take a back seat while they keep saying it.
My biggest regret was that he didn’t do it as his most famous creation because he shares this Craggy Island resident’s innocent wonder at the world around him. Father Dougal: Tomb Raider sounds great.
Finally it was there The gamesa new series in which This morning‘s Holly Willoughby and top gear‘s Freddie Flintoff watches as a dozen Z-list celebs compete in various sporting challenges on land and water for no other apparent reason than being on TV.
“Let’s slalom!” Fred yelled at one point, a dead look in his eyes.
“Let’s not,” I was tempted to yell back at the screen.
I really didn’t know which of them was apart from the one who used to do it Strict.
The games isn’t the worst on TV, but it’s not in the top 98.7pc either. Still, everyone has to make a living, right? Albeit cheap It’s a knockout discounts.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/television/television-reviews-maeve-binchy-tribute-reminded-us-that-normal-people-are-always-the-most-compelling-41646737.html TV Reviews: The Maeve Binchy tribute reminded us that normal people are always the most convincing