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Who's thrown a spanner in 'The Works'?

Who's thrown a spanner in 'The Works'?

It hepls to know that the G in An G Team (TG4, Sunday) stands for Gaeilge, which is not, admittedly, the biggest stretch in logic, as the programme is on the Irish-language station.

On another channel it could stand for gangsta, gay or gastric band (reality TV being a broad church), but the name is the only part of this shambolic new series that is easy to explain.

The idea for the 10-parter is that small towns and villages outside the Gaeltacht compete to become the top Irish-speaking town, like the Tidy Towns but with the cúpla focal instead of hanging baskets. They have six weeks to prepare for G Day, when they must organise events through Irish and show how committed the whole town is to the language. Then, when that charade is over, they can go back to speaking English.

The €40,000 prize that the winning village receives is sponsored by Foras na Gaeilge, a move that smacks of, “Well, we’ve tried everything else to get people to speak Irish: we may as well pay ’em.”

Bríd, in Co Leitrim, got to the crux of the problem with this show when she said, “I worry that what we do will seem artificial, because we don’t speak Irish in Dromahair.”

Committees were formed and random events planned. The male committee members in Lisvarrinane, Co Tipperary, competing this week against Dromahair, had a meeting in a sauna. “It’s roasting in here,” complained one half-naked man who kept his woollen scarf and hat on throughout.

There were treasure hunts, local characters, historical re-enactments, sheep-shearing, and dancing in a field to Moves Like Jagger. Some Irish was spoken, but not a lot.

The lead judge, Lorcan Mac Gabhann of Glór na nGael – a man with the charisma of a garda at a roadblock – pronounced Lisvarrinane “the most boring town he’d been in on G Day”. (It went on to beat Dromahair, which says a lot.) The other judges were the musician Rossa Ó Snodaigh and the former minister Mary Hanafin, who, once I got past the inevitable bitter thoughts about it being a handy nixer to supplement her huge government pension, was by far the most lively and engaged judge on the panel.

The community spirit in An G Team was admirable, but the poor direction and editing meant there was no excitement, fun or sense of the people – and there wasn’t even much G in evidence.

OVER CHRISTMAS the RTÉ sports journalist Colm Murray gave a lengthy interview that was so compelling and funny that I sat in the car long after reaching my destination to hear the end of it. He was also the subject of MND: The Inside Track (RTÉ1, Monday), this week’s absorbing TV documentary. That sounds like lot of broadcast time to give over to one person in a short period, but time is the very thing that Murray knows, with an inspiring acceptance of what he calls “the hand I’ve been dealt”, he doesn’t have a lot of.

He has motor neuron disease (MND), which he bluntly described as “progressive, incurable, terminal – the pits”. As well as footage of Murray during his high-profile career, in each shot of which he seemed to be having the time of his life, this well-edited, sensitively directed documentary included clips of Lou Gehrig, the baseball great who died of the disease in his late 30s and after whom it is named in the US.

Murray now uses a wheelchair, and his instantly recognisable voice is slower and more deliberate. (As Gehrig did in baseball, he has benched himself from his on-air job at RTÉ.) The story he wanted to tell in this awareness-raising documentary was that of science trying to find a cure. He has been taking part in trials of a new drug conducted by an MND specialist, the neurologist Prof Orla Hardiman. As in all these blind trials, he doesn’t know if he has been getting the placebo or the drug. Murray calls the daily pill “the dud”, but he says he wants “to be of help, to be of service” in the long road to a cure.

Four people in Ireland are diagnosed with MND every day, but Hardiman said, convincingly, that there is a huge amount of hope that an effective treatment will be found.

When she started her medical career 30 years ago, she said, a diagnosis of Aids meant death; now it’s a chronic condition and sufferers can expect a normal lifespan.
MND: The Inside Track was inspiring and chastening, poignant but not sentimental. “I see no reason why I should grant it [MND] that power,” said Murray of his determination to keep his sense of humour in the face of a most cruel diagnosis.

RTÉ’S LONG-RUNNING arts review The View has had a makeover, though not a full body lift – The Works (RTÉ1, Thursday) is still anchored by John Kelly, but now its regular contributors Sinéad Gleeson, Nadine O’Regan and Kevin Gildea have been released from the studio to go on location.

The opener featured Gleeson interviewing Michael Fassbender, who was obviously doing the rounds promoting his new movie; Neil Hannon performing in studio; O’Regan exploring the hip-hop and rap scene in Dublin – the most interesting, well-made feature in the show – and Kevin Gildea on the work of the forgotten Irish writer Eimar O’Duffy, an amateurish, cheesy item that was probably intended as offbeat but came across as boringly indulgent, leaving you quite happy never to hear about O’Duffy and his book Asses in Clover ever again.

What was most peculiar about The Works was that there was no sense of immediacy, no feeling that this is what is happening on the cultural scene right now – which surely is the whole point. All the items could have been made anytime in the past couple of months. A culture show that is missing that newsworthiness is missing a trick. Surely a large part of the audience who stay up this late – 10.45pm, on a school night! – do so to be kept up to speed with the events and exhibitions they may never get to see or books they mean to read.

Oddly, the new format has ditched the review element – the dull old View ’s only strength. The final item was John Kelly interviewing the novelist Joe O’Connor – always a most affable, generous interviewee with a lot to say – though this felt stilted and downbeat. Maybe the gloomy studio had something to do with it: it appears to be in a warehouse lit by a couple of energy-saving light bulbs. The Works needs to lighten up.

Foilsithe ar 28 Eanáir 2012

Foilsithe ar - 30 Eanáir 2012

The Irish Times, Weekend Review - Bernice Harrison

Bí ar an eolas - Cláraigh dár ríomhirisí

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