Sometimes a programme arrives with mighty hype and fails to live up to the high expectations, then sometimes you just about stumble upon a modest show that exceeds the low expectations.
RTÉ’s War of Independence drama Resistance (RTÉ1, Sunday nights) was preceded by much hype. Now two episodes in, it is better than I expected. So far the pacing is brisk, the acting quite good, and the script serviceable.
The creative team are obviously keen to highlight the role of strong women, but for a particular group of women their strength and service is reduced to caricature and stereotype, especially in the first episode. Yes, it was the nuns! No doubt there were unpleasant nuns and cruel practices, but that was far from the full story.
Unfortunately that’s all we’ve got so far in the forced adoption story here – no nuance for the nuns. The Black and Tans were rather one-dimensional also, though two-tone by name, but even one of them was shown as having a heart, uneasy with the arbitrary violence of colleagues.
Last Sunday’s second episode featured the reappearance of one of the nuns, and it was an improvement, with her being a strong woman, defending the rights of a child in her care not to be bartered in return for intelligence information for the IRA. But then she had a private off-screen chat with a republican priest and hey presto the young boy is spirited away by shadowy figures. There were harsh words too for the IRA gunmen, though their characters are more diverse and three dimensional, from those who are trigger happy, through those turning a blind eye, to those with qualms about an armed struggle.
Without any fanfare I came across the low key programme, True North: Stephen McCoy – My Fight To Live on Tuesday night of last week on BBC2 NI. McCoy survived when a plane crash-landed on a motorway near Kegworth in England, 30 years ago. His injuries were life changing, but with the help of his carer-sister Yvonne he has made progress and developed a cheerful outlook on life.
The documentary focused particularly on his efforts to walk again with the help of a physiotherapist and an exoskeleton device. There were tears from his mother Rose and family when he took his first steps. Stephen is a person of strong faith and a highlight of the year is his annual trip to Lourdes, where we saw him attending the various pilgrim activities.
I was particularly struck by the way he held his candle aloft during one of the ceremonies – it spoke of courage faith and determination.
I was also impressed by the style of the programme, typical fly-on-the-wall , but with beautiful animations to illustrate the various phases of Stephen’s story, and striking subtitles when he spoke, as his speech was impaired by his injuries.
Both techniques lifted the show even more above the ordinary and showed great respect for Stephen’s humanity.
Also from the North, last weekend’s Sunday Sequence (BBC Radio Ulster) featured a discussion on veganism and ethical farming. Veganism has been getting lots of publicity of late presumably because of the promotion of Veganuary!
Their posters certainly grab the attention, and are pro-life in their own way. ‘It’s Not a Personal Choice When Someone is Killed’ proclaims one of them, and apart from the image of a cow under the slogan, this would have been very apt during last May’s referendum.
I didn’t notice any ‘Vegans for Life’ initiatives during that campaign, but last week I did come across a Vegan Pro-Life Facebook group.
On the show Sandra Higgins of GoVegan World was concerned about population growth and “speciesism”, frequently referred to “other animals”, and “somebody else’s life”, spoke of “the myth that humans are superior”, and found these “other animals”, who were “individuals”, to be “not all that different to me at all”. While I thought that was over the top, few would argue with respect for life, which, she said, was “the essence of veganism”.
Environmentalist Brian Black was more concerned with climate change in general and thought we should reduce meat eating to just being a “treat”. Johnny Hampson, described as a Christian farmer, was all for treating animals responsibly, whether we had them as pets or used them for food. He spoke more in terms of stewardship and our uniqueness as humans, with our moral sentience.
Now that I could relate to.
Pick of the week
WORLD YOUTH DAY: PANAMA 2019
EWTN, Tuesday, January 22, 9.30 pm
Beginning of live coverage with the opening Mass of World Youth Day 2019.
EWTN, Wednesday, January 23, 5.30 pm and Friday, 9 am
Kathy Sinnott speaks with Bernadette Goulding, pioneer of Rachel’s Vineyard in Ireland, with stories of Irish women wounded by abortion.
THE LEAP OF FAITH
RTÉ Radio 1, Friday, January 25, 10.00 pm
Topical religious and ethical issues with Michael Comyn.