What’s happened to RTE’s “Other Voices”?

St. James church in Din­gle, co. Kerry.

What’s going on with the once great Oth­er Voic­es? The first episode in this the 16th sea­son began exact­ly as you would have expect­ed, with BBC Radio 1 dj Annie Mac deliv­er­ing an intro promis­ing music from the likes of Per­fume Genius (reviewed ear­li­er here) and Djan­go Djan­go, with reports and footage from fes­ti­vals in Berlin, Belfast and at the Elec­tric Picnic.

The usu­al heady mix then of left of field, broad­ly indie fare mixed with the best in Irish music, and all set against the pic­ture post­card-per­fect back­drop of a church in Din­gle. But that intro, it tran­spired, was for the series, not for the episode at hand which was con­sid­er­ably less auspicious.

Ibeyi, from Paris via Cuba.

First up were Pic­ture This, who hail from Athy. If you’ve ever passed through Athy, you’ll know that at its cen­tre sits Shaws, the drap­ers where every local moth­er brings her son and daugh­ter to get fit­ted out for their first holy com­mu­nion, con­for­ma­tion and debs. And which famous­ly ran an ad declar­ing, glo­ri­ous­ly, “Shaws, almost nation­wide!” Which is all the more delight­ful in its refusal of the obvi­ous­ly cor­rect “near­ly nationwide”.

Had it been penned by a beard in Williams­burg it would quite right­ly have been hailed as a bril­liant­ly bit­ing decon­struc­tion of what adver­tis­ing copy is sup­posed to do. Let’s just assume that’s exact­ly what was intend­ed by who­ev­er came up with it here. Well, Pic­ture This sound exact­ly what you’d expect a band from Athy to sound like.

Wyvern Lin­go.

Next up were a cou­ple of num­bers from Sigrid, an oh so earnest Swedish would-be teen queen whose drea­ry synth pop is obvi­ous­ly going down a storm with the pre-tweens, and who was clear­ly as sur­prised to find her­self on stage singing as we were to see here per­form­ing on it. No doubt she’ll have a host of hilar­i­ous sto­ries to tell her class mates once she goes back to col­lege to fin­ish her degree in archi­tec­ture or inte­ri­or design, before set­tling down to bring up her kids.

After the break we had a cou­ple of songs from Wyvern Lin­go, a gen­uine­ly com­pelling trio from Bray who set their mel­liflu­ous melodies to glitchy indi­etron­i­ca, very much in the mode of Syl­van Esso – who them­selves are made up of one part of Moun­tain Man, who Wyvern Lin­go were com­pared to when they start­ed out.

Katie Kim per­forms at the RTE Choice Music Prize 2016, by Kier­an Frost

After that, we were giv­en a haunt­ing per­for­mance from singer song­writer Maria Kel­ly, and it looked as if the pro­gramme was back on track. But imme­di­ate­ly after that it was up to Belfast, and who did they find to record there? Only Pic­ture This. And, sure enough, after Belfast it was back to Din­gle we were treat­ed to no few­er than four fur­ther tracks from Athy’s finest, and anoth­er three from Sigrid, the very much not Sti­na Nordenstam.

So three quar­ters of the pro­gramme was devot­ed to a pair of young-fogey, pub-rock­ers from the mid­lands, and the least threat­en­ing Swedish chanteuse you’ll ever hear.

There’s noth­ing wrong with devot­ing three quar­ters of your pro­gramme to just two acts, so long as the acts in ques­tion mer­it that atten­tion. They could have focused on, say, Katie Kim (reviewed here), Lisa Han­ni­gan, Brigid Mae Pow­er or Rejji Snow from these shores, or, from fur­ther afield, on the likes of Cig­a­rettes After Sex, Ibeyi (reviewed here) or Car Seat Head­rest (reviewed here). Or, most obvi­ous­ly of all, they could have turned the show on its head, and giv­en three quar­ters of it to Wyvern Lin­go and Maria Kel­ly, and just the 10 min­utes to Pic­ture This and Sigrid, in total.

Car Seat Head­rest’s bril­liant Teens of Denial.

There’s noth­ing wrong with Pic­ture This, but their debut album went to num­ber 1 here (and there’s a prize of a Curly Wurly and a sher­bet dip for any­one who can cor­rect­ly guess what they called it), and there are any num­ber of out­lets where they play that sort MOR music wall to wall, night and day. The whole point about Oth­er Voic­es is that the music it gives voice to is sup­posed to be pre­cise­ly that, other.

Here’s the video for Wyvern Lingo’s Out of My Hands and the video for I Love You, Sadie also from Wyvern Lingo.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every month on All the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Towering Gabriel Byrne can’t save BBC’s “Quirke”.

Gabriel Byrne as Quirke.

Gabriel Byrne as Quirke.

The must see tele­vi­sion of the last decade or so, The Sopra­nos, The Wire, Mad Men, Break­ing Bad, Dead­wood, Board­walk Empire, or for that mat­ter Buffy, Friends, The Simp­sons, South Park, Curb Your Enthu­si­asm, Girls and Louie — even Let­ter­man, ear­ly Conan or The Today Show  — all have one thing in com­mon; their writing.

On the one hand it was their abil­i­ty to draw you in with pre­cise­ly delin­eat­ed sto­ry­lines that stretched across entire series and beyond. And on the oth­er, it was the care and craft that was invest­ed into each and every one of their episodes.

So it’s huge­ly dis­ap­point­ing that instead of pri­ori­tis­ing the scripts for their col­lab­o­ra­tions on Quirke, RTE and the BBC invest­ed all their time and effort on its sets and cos­tumes. The first of the three fea­ture length episodes had too much plot, the sec­ond not enough. The whole thing could be summed up by that adver­tis­ing slo­gan from a few years ago;

we won’t make a dra­ma out of a crisis”.

A series of inci­dents hap­pened one after the oth­er, with­out ever amount­ing to dra­ma. Some of them Quirke man­aged to piece togeth­er, oth­ers he all too eas­i­ly chanced upon.

The epony­mous pro­tag­o­nist – whose name was repeat­ed end­less­ly in much the same way that old school sales­men begin every sin­gle indi­vid­ual sen­tence by repeat­ing your name at its begin­ning – was played by Gabriel Byrne, who was by far and away the most impres­sive thing about Quirke. If any­thing, his tow­er­ing per­for­mance some­what imbal­ances every­body else’s.

Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold in Entourage;  happier times.

Jere­my Piv­en as Ari Gold in Entourage; hap­pi­er times.

But it was the clunk­i­ness of the plot­ting and the pre­dictable man­ner in which each of the scenes unfold­ed that real­ly bogged the whole thing down. It looked great, but to absolute­ly no end.

Per­haps I was expect­ing too much. After all, the man they got to write it, Andrew Davies, is the BBC’s go to man for san­i­tized and secure­ly safe ver­sions of Jane Austen, And the chap ITV turned to for its replace­ment for Down­town Abbey, with the mon­u­men­tal­ly dull Mr Sel­f­ridge star­ring poor old Jere­my Piv­en, who deserves so much more. Next up, Davis is apply­ing his mid­dle brow met­rics to War And Peace. Oh dear.

And the source mate­r­i­al is just John Banville in mufti. I sup­pose real­ly it was exact­ly the sort of thing one ought to have expect­ed to find at half past nine on RTE1 of a Sun­day eve. Not to much The Sopra­nos,  more the Onedin Line.

Quirke was lit­tle more than a slight­ly dark­er Down­town with a bit  more swear­ing and whiskey with an E.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed on all the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

Irish Pictorial Weekly, Shock Horror, an Irish Comedy that’s Actually Funny.

Irish Pictorial Weekly.

Irish Pic­to­r­i­al Weekly.

Com­e­dy pro­grammes on Irish tele­vi­sion have a long and shame­ful past. There have been many, many of them, each one, mes­mer­i­cal­ly, even more unfun­ny than the one before. From Upward­ly Mobile, the Big Bow Wow – which I think was a com­e­dy… — right up to the cur­rent, exe­crable Repub­lic Of Tel­ly.

Paths to Free­dom was a rare and lone­ly bea­con of light — you can see Rats and his broth­er in alms in Belfast here. But even they stum­bled when try­ing to deal with the mid­dle class­es instead of stick­ing to Rats and his drink­ing class buddies.

So it’s some­thing of a cul­ture shock, to say the least, to see a pro­gramme on RTE that’s gen­uine­ly fun­ny. I was try­ing to think of a sim­i­le. But it’s actu­al­ly a sim­i­le in its own right. When next con­front­ed with some­thing that’s grotesque and unbe­liev­able, bizarre and unprece­dent­ed, you’ll be able to say that what­ev­er it is is rather like find­ing a com­e­dy on RTE that’s actu­al­ly funny.

What they were up against.

What they were up against.

Irish Pic­to­r­i­al Week­ly is made by Blind­er Films and writ­ten and per­formed by, amongst oth­ers, Bar­ry Mur­phy, Gary Cooke, Eleanor Tier­nan, John Col­leary, Paul Howard, Alan Shortt, Colum McDon­nell, and Tara Fly­nn. It man­ages to fore­ground sharp polit­i­cal satire against a suc­ces­sion of won­der­ful­ly sur­re­al back­drops in a mix­ture of doc­tored clips and sketch­es. The results are both reli­ably con­sis­tent and bril­liant­ly fun­ny. And as such, it’s some­thing of a revelation.

Poor Swift can at last stop spin­ning in that grave of his. We can it seems pro­duce satire aimed at view­ers with a triple dig­it IQ. Our tal­ents do stretch beyond The Phoenix after all.

It’s on RTE1 on Thurs­days at 22:15. Here are a cou­ple of clips. A Ger­ry Adams clip here. An Eamon Gilmore clip here. A Pat Rab­bitte clip here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!

RTE’s “Love/Hate” is Not Like Real Life At All.

RTE's Love/Hate.

RTE’s Love/Hate.

There’s been an enor­mous amount writ­ten about how real­is­tic and true to life (or not(!)) the RTE dra­ma Love/Hate is, with many peo­ple com­plain­ing about the fac­tu­al errors on it.  And I have to say, on watch­ing series four I too was left sim­i­lar­ly per­plexed. To pick just three of the many, many glar­ing and inex­plic­a­ble inac­cu­ra­cies:

Oh come on, would anyone really wear a wrist watch like that?

Oh come on, would any­one real­ly wear a wrist watch that garish?

There’s a scene in episode 3 as the Gar­dai are keep­ing sur­veil­lance on a ware­house. To cel­e­brate the suc­cess­ful hid­ing of the cam­eras and mikes there, one of the guards lights up a cig­a­rette. In an enclosed place of work! Which is against the law!

So, what, we’re being asked to believe that a serv­ing mem­ber of an gar­da siochana would know­ing­ly break­ing the law?!

But that’s just the start of it. In anoth­er scene, a num­ber of crim­i­nals are hav­ing a dis­cus­sion and, as you’d expect, the light­bulb above their heads gives off an abun­dance of light, clear­ly indi­cat­ing that they’re using a con­ven­tion­al, stan­dard (prob­a­bly 100w!) incan­des­cent lightbulb.

But when we cut to the Gards at their head­quar­ters, they seem to be in a room lit in exact­ly the same way! Sug­gest­ing that, instead of using a Halo­gen, CFL or even LED bulb, as I’ve no doubt you’ll find installed in all police sta­tions through­out the coun­try, they are every bit as envi­ron­men­tal­ly irre­spon­si­ble as the peo­ple they are up against in the crim­i­nal underworld!

Totti by name...

More TV Totti.

And then again, in anoth­er scene, in a broth­el – which by the way are ille­gal in this coun­try, so where’s this scene sup­posed to be tak­ing place! – one of the bystanders is wear­ing a Roma FC soc­cer jer­sey. But if you freeze frame it just before he scratch­es his nose, you can clear­ly see the words “Asa NIsi MAsa” tat­tooed on his knuckles.

Obvi­ous­ly, this is a ref­er­ence to Felli­ni’s appro­pri­a­tion of Jung’s “ani­ma” con­cept, which he trans­lat­ed into the Rim­i­ni dialect for 8 ½, and which we hear being whis­pered in the dream-like flash­back scenes depict­ing his child­hood. But why would some­body who went to the trou­ble of hav­ing that tat­tooed on his hand, clear­ly indi­cat­ing he grew up in the East coast sea­side town of Rim­i­ni, be wear­ing a Roma FC jersey?!

Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini's 8 1/2.

Mar­cel­lo Mas­troian­ni in Fellini’s “8 1/2”.

How can you pos­si­bly get involved in the sto­ry being told when there are all these woe­ful inac­cu­ra­cies just leap­ing off of the screen at you at every turn?

Nat­u­ral­ly I’ve for­ward­ed this on to the Direc­tor Gen­er­al at RTE, togeth­er with a full list of all the fac­tu­al errors (1,036 in total) that I man­aged to find in just the first three episodes. I’ve no doubt he’ll be keen to sit down with the writ­ers and the pro­duc­tion team in an effort to stamp this out. And I con­fi­dent­ly expect to be receiv­ing a reply from him on the mat­ter in the very near future.

After all, and I real­ly didn’t want to end on this note, but; is this the kind of thing we’re being asked to pay our license fee for? Because, I regret to report, Love/Hate isn’t remote­ly true to life. It’s all made up. The whole thing’s a com­plete fiction.

Sign up for a Sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the very Best and Worst in Film Tele­vi­sion and Music!