Out of the dirge of church music and passion memories of Holy Week, TG4 celebrated the Easter Sunday with a delightful explosion of Irish music and tradition direct from the palatial Wexford Opera House with Gradam Ceoil – the Oscars as it were of traditional music. It was great to see movie star Brendan Gleeson present an award and strike up his fiddle as presenter Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh tootled on the flute (Never saw Kenny or Tubridy do that). Daithi O Se as co-presenter was a wow and hasn’t he taken over from Hector as the clown prince of TG4 celebrity.
After a false start, BBC2 got around to broadcasting the James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson tv movie Five Minutes Of Heaven and it made for uncomfortable viewing on a Northern Ireland terrorist subject. Nesbitt was amazing as the Catholic who, as a young boy, witnessed the cold-blooded murder of a brother by a UDA young-gunman. Neeson was the grown-up gunman who worked in social reconciliation and he agreed to meet with the Nesbitt character for a tv programme about truth and reconciliation.
In one way it showed how tv values are not necessarily about any kind of redemptive truth, just a studio version of tears and telling. The story was very shocking and visceral and you could feel Neeson’s inner hurt and fear Nesbitt’s rage and need for retribution as a way of relief from the failure his family branded him with.
I didn’t think Ulster topics could sear into my mind as much as this programme did and it has to figure in awards. It is also worth noting that Waterford-born playwright, Dave Duggan, has written an excellent play about a terrorist killer confronting his victim as well. Perhaps RTE might option it sometime.
Sometimes television has become a history lesson rather than entertainment and with increasing levies that we learn about from television, we are getting a short sharp shock about the impact of recent history.
Anyway on C4 old wise-guy David Starkey limped along in Henry Viii: Mind Of A Tyrant, describing that era as the best and bloodiest soap opera of them all. This is Starkey’s third return to Henry 8 and this time we got the teenage Henry being groomed for kingship with experts writing text books for him with quill-pens. Henry became king due to the early death of his brother, Arthur. I didn’t know that Arthur’s young wife was Catherine Of Aragon. Arrah-go-on!
Another programme destined for the History channel was The Kindertransport Story on BBC1, about the almost 10,000 Jewish children taken from Germany before the war and offered refuge in Britain. It was both harrowing and uplifting, as most of these kids grew up English and never had much contact with their parents after the war. Life was a lot worse then.
RTE1 have a nifty little programme, The Master’s Apprentice, on Thursdays. Last week was about a Dublin IT man learning about niche walking tourism from Connemara Safari – a hotel and walking three islands tour that took in some wild sights and had an outdoors job interview feel as well. There is always a feel-good factor to these, especially on Budget and Bad news day.
I recognised the voice of Ceil’ House presenter, Kieran Hanrahan (Hello There) in the RTE1 tribute to ceil’ music with In The Blood : Kilfenora Ceil’ Band, as he spoke about the impact this band had in the fifties in England, during Lent. They brought the real Irish music to a homesick generation who mostly had to settle for showbands of sax and banjo combos in pubs. Kilfenora kept a traditional style of music alive and were the better for it, as today with sheet music and multi-track recording, the present band rehearse in Corofin but are still the memorable Kilfenora.
Over 16 million households have tv in Spain and besides home-produced telenovelas, the Hispanic version of soaps, they watch overdubbed series like Big Brother and Ugly Betty. Wipeout is huge and recently they started showing Doc Martin. Sport is huge over three channels with new channel Cuatro promoting sport in a big way. Cuatro also show House.
Ugly Betty is also big in Russia, where about 35 million homes have tv. Channel One (Pervyi Kanal) is a state licence fee channel that imports High School Musical and Lost and has its own version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Rossiya (Russia TV) is the second largest public channel and their biggie is their version of Dancing On Ice.