Alan Smith

The Waterford fire fighter Alan Smith is going to swim the English Channel this autumn as I watched the More4 documentary Big River Man. Martin Strel a Slovenian swimmer and celebrity swam the length of the Amazon in 2007 and the documentary won an Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. What an amazing feat! – taking 66 days to cover 3,273 miles. At times it felt mad and there were times when a catatonic type of madness took over Strel’s mind as he psyched himself into a daily grind of polluted water, snakes, parasites and piranhas. His escort boats had to pour blood into the water to distract such meat-eating fish. Sometimes human achievement amazes me so this autumn spare a thought and donate a few Euros to Alan Smith as he sets out on his endurance test.


Degradation seems to be the soap theme for August. Wasn’t it Edna O’Brien who said – August is a wicked month. Fair City has Bob not only sleeping rough but stealing from a support fund for an ill child and then he gets the crap kicked out of him pre-watershed. Over on Eastenders Phil Mitchell is now on crack cocaine – there he was dancing in slow mo, slugging down whiskey and shadow-boxing the world.

What next? Phil does cold turkey before Christmas and Bob becomes a born-again preacher or healer, or becomes a patio salesman.

Hot Air

UTV had one of the longest titles as a filler recently with Stephen Tompkinson’s Australian Balloon Adventure. Lucky they don’t fit in greatest as it was far from great even if the mundane was enlivened by a rapid descent and crash were the basket and crew was dragged for miles. Well, more than a mile. Otherwise, it was a padded out hour of singing Queen songs as they drove along rusty red dusty roads. Oh! And there was more cricket and wine tasting at a Shiraz winery. Pardon the pun, but Tompkinson has come a long way since he played the wimpy priest in Ballykissangel.

Kings and Monks

TV3 have a great Sunday series running over four weeks, with hour and a half length episodes with a great cast and a kings/ knights society and stone masons plus swordfights and a slightly complicated storyline. The Pillars of the Earth is set in a fictional twelfth century when the heir to the throne was in dispute. Lots of plot and a stonemason gothic architecture from a Ken Follett book that the BBC Big Read listed number 33. Made by a euro consortium with Donald Sutherland as a lord on the wrong side of the unlawful king. Ian McShane is the dodgy cleric Waleran Bigod (what a name), Rufus Sewell is a stony stonemason building his dream cathedral and Sarah Parish is a wily wife who would pleasure her son if necessary to boost his ego. Matthew MacFadyan (ex-spooks) is your humble prior destined for a date with Thomas Beckett. There is a witch character that lifts up her skirts and pees on the Bible or the cleric. In a way this is Henry VIII meets Caedfael meets Stonemason meets Dynasty.


It started out with promise, a comedy cop show as opening sequence is quirky with an auctioneer trying to sell two cops a house with a dead body on the floor. It is called vexed and it might be better called vaeating but it has two babes of boy cop, girl cop, neither very bright as they try to solve a cereal killer!! who chooses victims from loyalty card printouts – he or as it turns out a she-killer learns about clients likes and dislikes. But the plot doesn’t hold water. He uses the printouts to date a stunner he meets in a supermarket and the she-cop finds out (wrongly) her husband has charged flowers, underwear and condoms to his loyalty card. Why is it called vexed? The plot is leaky, the jokes are as naff as a lien about a bald woman – Is that a fashion statement or do you think she’s having chemo? I liked it when she took the rolling pin to her innocent husband and smashed his two knees. All it has going for it is the will they, won’t they, but who cares?


The stats outlined in the C4 series The Hospital about diabetes was shocking as thousands of young people in Britain ignore the signs that lead to kidney problems and two types of diabetes. The causal indifference of people who sullenly state that they will not allow diabetes control their life, little realising there is no cure only a lifetime of checks and remedial medication. Poor diet, binge drinking and lack of exercise are prime causes and over half a million people do not know they have the problem. There are about 15,000 people with diabetes in a town the size of Croydon and to infuriate viewers and specialist doctors, many do not keep clinic appointments or monitor their blood sugars.