There have been lots of interesting changes in the media landscape in recent times, and I’ll get through them in turn.
It seemed natural that Joe Duffy would take over from the late Gay Byrne (Duffy was once his protégée) for the new series of The Meaning of Life (RTÉ One, Sunday). I was expecting little from the first episode where the guest was comedian and podcaster Blindboy Boatclub – the Rubberbandits guy who wears a plastic bag over his head. Sorry, I find that hard to relate to, though in this mask-wearing era he doesn’t stand out quite as much as before.
He was interesting when speaking about mental health and broad religious issues, but I found his understanding of Catholicism to be juvenile.
He seemed to base his views on his late father’s “spiritual but not religious” outlook and some jam jar metaphor for sin a teacher used when he was seven (early 90’s, not 50’s).
He was big on compassion and the intrinsic worth of people, which is admirable, but I found him gratuitously offensive about Catholicism. I won’t even repeat what he said he’d say to the God he didn’t believe in if it was the “God of Catholicism”, but the letter ‘f’ figured strongly and that wasn’t his only use of bad language (a first for the show?).
I thought Duffy had to steer him back to the issue of God and religion a few times and eventually in relation to God he said that was “not something I even think about”. This being one of the few religious shows on RTÉ, would it not be better to engage with guests who do think more about it?
Also changing is The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk) where Kieran Cuddihy has replaced Ivan Yates. So far I like his style. He’s light-hearted even as he covers serious issues. Unlike some other broadcasters, he doesn’t seem to feel the need to show off, he’s courteous and I don’t sense that he’s pushing any trendy agendas.
I find him thoroughly interested in his guests and their stories. Empathy in interviews is always welcome and I found it in his interview Tuesday of last week with Colin Parry whose son Tim was killed by an IRA bomb in Warrington 1993. I also enjoyed Wednesday’s interview with homelessness campaigner Alice Leahy, who questioned the way society was regarding older people during the pandemic.
All that being said, also on Wednesday and yet again on Thursday there was an extended and unsavoury item about women posting explicit photos to make money. Effectively promotional, this item was treated too lightly despite the sleazy aspects, not least being the objectification and commodification of women. The inclusion of a contributor with concerns on the Thursday wasn’t enough to negate the sour taste.
Also leaving a sour taste was the ironically titled and decidedly weird TV drama Perfect Parents (Virgin Media 3, Friday).
Originally from ITV, the plot was bizarre – parents want their young daughter to get into a well-regarded Catholic school because the local schools are rough, but they’re not Catholic and so they pretend to be and get the sweet daughter to lie and go along with the fiction.
They forge a baptismal cert and bribe a priest to write references. The priest is also being blackmailed for allegedly abusing a young boy years ago. Beatings and deaths follow. Vitriol is directed at Church teaching on divorce, homosexuality and contraception, while the Catholic school’s admission policy (catering mostly but not exclusively for the Catholic community) seems to be the root of all evil.
It’s a hotch-potch of every anti-Catholic trope you could imagine (even the obligatory dig at Catholic guilt!) and the scene where the parents go to Communion just to look Catholic is quite jarring.
Despite the deception the young girl takes enthusiastically to the Faith much to the surprise of her parents. The compromised priest (David Warner) gives them a thorough drilling in the basics of the Faith so they can pass muster at the school interview and they swot from Catholicism for Dummies (there is such a book!).
The principal of the school, a nun, is prissy at times, but is sharp enough and has a good heart.
I may be wrong, but insofar as the drama has a consistent viewpoint it seems to be that of a lapsed Catholic with an unresolved love-hate relationship with their Faith and Church.
That’s common enough.
Pick of the week
The Facebook Dilemma
RTÉ One, Sunday (night), September 13, 3.55 am
Examining the powerful social media platforms impact on privacy and democracy in the US and around the world.
Home – A Year In Ireland’s Housing Crisis
RTÉ One, Monday, September 14, 9.35 pm
Filmed over the course of a year, this brand new TV documentary delves beneath the statistics to tell the story of what home looks like across Ireland in 2020.
Friday Night Movie: Selma
RTÉ Two, Friday, September 18, 10 pm
(2014) David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo. A chronicle of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.