The new RTE1 show – A Little Bit Showband, hit all the right notes with a gentle re-telling of the life and times of Waterford legend, Brendan Bowyer. It paid a great tribute to a powerful era in Irish entertainment as a trombone player rose from Bailey’s New Street become the Elvis of the Olympia, the Hucklebuck King of Las Vegas. There was a sadness in the tribute, with mention of Tom Dunphy, who made the first showband hit, ‘Come Down The Mountain Katie Daly’ and ‘If I Didn’t Have A Dime’, and died tragically in a car crash. Brendan had his own dark time with drink but it was beautiful to see himself and Michael Coppinger stroll around Waterford and a scene of Brendan chatting to pupils in his old primary school at St. Declan’s was a nice touch. Well narrated by Ronan Collins, with lots of new archival footage.
Watch out Little Britain, watch out a lot of smart alex smart assed comedy. Killinaskully is back, tractor and all, but no pink snacks in the first episode. The three guys are still at the bar in Jacksies and the one-liners are still as corny but it is an Irish-kind-of-fun. A comedy that has all the true and trusted Pat Shortt hallmarks and not a nod to Father Ted. The plots defy originality but steam along with well-remembered characters. You gotta see it to believe it. And you better believe your funny bone.
Strange but show that won a record 13 Emmys, John Adams, is only showing on More 4. Did none of the biggies think it was going to have a chance. Just a story of the second American President in a time of election. Tom Hanks was Executive Producer and the first episode is so low-key and seems under-produced, under-directed, under-heroic, yet it surprisingly caught the mood in America. Adams is played by no Hanks, no Redford, just a roly-poly Paul Giametti and you can believe the soft-spoken dialogue. It has a curious impact especially how New Englanders rose up over 5 citizens being killed by British soldiers in a street fracas. This, in Ireland, would touch a Bloody Sunday nerve but it is still low-key. The Boston tea-party, when Bostonians chucked British tea in the river rather than pay more taxes, is spoken of, not acted out. Yet Americans saw something of their own history in John Adams to give it the wings of fame, the acclamation of history. Strange and on More 4.
Are you watching the C4 fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Family? It’s fascinating stuff as we only see people coming and going in an overhead shot at the front door. The husband seems too good to be true, he works, does most of the cooking and is the most reasonable of parents and the wife comes at irregular hours and doses in her dressing gown and seems to demand as much attention as her two lazy daughters who live, fight and keep secrets. Why they do that on a reality show puzzles me. But you can’t help but like this family as you feel up-close and personal to them. I love it when they get all close and huggy and so obviously caring and your heart goes – oh yes, how wonderful – and your head says – get real.
To make it, this Hughes family, are a result of a years selection, with a fourteen person phone team, initially talking to thousands of possibles before interviewing at home over a hundred such families. The Hughes live in a cottage in Canterbury and C4 hired the next door cottage for post production. Installed 40 people plus equipment and 30 screens for 24/7 coverage over 100 days. In the Hughes house they set up 21 cameras, 16 microphones. Elsewhere they rented four other houses and a small hotel. They made and stored 2,000 tapes, 2,000 back-up tapes, 4,000 audio tapes. They told locals they were an IT company. The planning process took 18 months before a camera rolled.
The Clinic came back to RTE1 and it was slow and sombre and Cathy didn’t survive, so it was funeral stuff. At times the rest of the show was in mortuary mood and little camera tricks didn’t help and suddenly there is Grey’s Anatomy type background music that seems out of context. But the surprising thing is how well we identify with individual characters and that’s a positive thing for a series that should run and run, if the stories aren’t so slow but it is character-driven and by and large we like the characters.
BBC have kitted out a US Election bus to follow the American election for six weeks. Viewers will get an on-the-spot view of how the election affects small and middle town America; its 4,000 miles, four time zones, different weather and different politics. And it will feed that curiosity many feel about America.