Brides of Franc; Designs for life…

by John Boland

Someone should tell RTE that the party’s over. While the rest of us are wondering where our next meal or pay cheque is coming from, our national broadcaster blithely commissions a new series of Brides of Franc (RTE1), in which a preening wedding planner encourages his clients to embrace ostentatious opulence.

In his pursuit of pizazz, the flamboyant Franc (Peter Kelly to his nearest and dearest) found ideal accomplices this week in Google employee Dee and online marketeer Graham, who were unashamed enthusiasts for all things bright and blingy. Dee in particular wanted a wedding that was “razzle-dazzle, sparkly, shiny, glittery” and that also had “the wow factor.”

But what about the straitened times in which the country finds itself? Stuff and nonsense, according to Dee, who revealed that “the doom and gloom and recession you hear about every five seconds on the radio – that’s not for us.”

Dee, according to Franc, was “my kind of lady” and also had “great taste.” Franc’s own taste was in evidence when he flew in candelabras from Italy and silk taffeta chair covers from Los Angeles. “This is going to be a wow wedding,” he panted. “I want this to be bling, bling, bling.”

How much money all of this bling entails was never mentioned in the programme, though we were told in Risteard Cooper’s voiceover that Franc’s services came “at no extra cost” to the couple. Would that be because RTE, in screening this entirely flattering series, is giving Franc the kind of free publicity he could otherwise only dream about?

Meanwhile, four architects have been singled out for admiring publicity in RTE1’s new series, Designs for Life – in sharp contrast to less fortunate members of their profession who are now queuing for a living. Here’s yet another series that’s out of step with its time, though at least presenter Garry Miley acknowledges at the outset that the economy has collapsed since filming began in the summer of 2006.

Such recognition, though, doesn’t alter the fact that we were being asked to spend an hour of our time indulging a couple and their architect as they built a “21st century barn” a few miles outside Sligo town.
There were the usual hurdles to be overcome – planning permission, suppliers who went bust – and clearly the viewer was meant to become engrossed in all the snags and agonisings and escalating costs. Unfortunately, the film was so listless that the viewer couldn’t give a toss.

And only diehard fans of the former footballer could give a toss about Roy Keane: The Sunderland Story (TV3), which posed the question of what really went on during Keane’s tenure as manager of the club and then spent 55 tedious minutes failing to provide a satisfactory, or even interesting, answer. And the fact that neither Keane nor Niall Quinn consented to be interviewed for the film made it seem like a production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona minus the two gentlemen. 

Instead, we had to put up with trite observations from Bertie Ahern, Charlie Chawke and Brian Kerr, as well as contributions from local hacks and others.“I thought he was a fighter, not a quitter,” a fan said, while Jason McAteer suggested that if something’s “not good for Roy Keane, then Roy Keane will walk away,” which has always been pretty much my own feeling about the man.

At the end of this pointless film the narrator summed it all up: “Roy Keane will be missed, but it’s time to move on.” Indeed it is.

Bucking RTE’s overall spend-spend-spend philosophy, Kathryn Thomas on No Frontiers (RTE1) was mindful of the times we live in, arriving in Rome to see if she could “experience la dolce vita without breaking the bank.”

This was Kathryn’s first time in Rome and she found it “blessed with heaps of history and tradition.”  And for anyone who imagines that the cuisine consists of bacon and cabbage, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, it also has “any amount of wonderful Italian food,” though she found some of the “pizza and pasta joints pretty pricey.”

However, she did find “bare minimum” accommodation in a converted monastery, where single rooms cost €70 and doubles €95. A bit spartan for Kathryn, though, who wrinkled her nose at the prospect: “I can imagine a lifetime of solitude and contemplation here, but would I stay as a paying guest? Probably not.”

Instead, she recommended a four-star hotel costing €150 a night. Well, that might seem reasonable to a pampered travel show presenter, but Kathryn should be told that there’s lot of perfectly good accommodation (small hotels, guest houses, apartments) in Rome – as there is in other great cities – for under €100 a night. Just go on the web and find them, even if Kathryn and her team can’t be bothered.

On Questions and Answers (RTE1), the unflattering Brian Cowen paintings were under discussion, most of the panellists thinking RTE’s craven apology for its news item about them “a mistake” and “misguided.” However, in a Late Late Show discussion a couple of nights earlier, censure focused on the artist for daring to caricature the Taoiseach and on the print media for daring to report on it, this censure mainly coming from right-wing senator Ronan Mullen, a man so in love with his own smirking persona that if he were a cat he’d lick himself.

Earlier in the show, there was a curiously stilted and muted session with the rugby Grand Slam quartet of Declan Kidney, Rory Best, Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll. Anyone who marvelled at their achievements the previous weekend would have perked up at the prospect of an illuminating chat but, despite the host’s best efforts, the manager and players came across as wary and cautious in their observations and comments, as if fearful of the open-ended, unscripted nature of the show. A pity, though.

This was also the show in which Pat Kenny announced his intention to bow out at the end of the current season. However, he’ll be returning to television in the autumn with a show that will replace Questions and Answers, which is good news for anyone interested in current affairs. Meanwhile, the print media are speculating about who’ll replace him on the Late Late. Oh, just kill it off.

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