Madman on loose again as Nolan, er, The Fall returns
It's not everyday you get invited to the launch of a cosmetic company's autumn/winter season. Well, of course it isn't, as they usually tend to favour a date around early autumn for such events.
Thanks to the very decent bods at UTV press office, I was indeed invited to such a launch this week, as amidst the glamorous surrounds of the Merchant Hotel, the "channel o' flannel" was showing off its winter warmers range.
No less than Chas Dingle from Emmerdale was there to help celebrate the revelation that there'd be more Lesser Spotted Ulster (hooray), a new six-part "fly-on-the-wall documentary series about the £3m investment in the renovation of Mount Stewart on the shore of Strangford Lough" (meh) and lots of crowing about how we "buck the national trend" when it comes to lapping up X-Factor (oh c'mon norn iron!).
It's a bit like Scotland boasting it has a higher rate of heart disease than the rest of the UK.
As it happens, I couldn't attend in the end due to certain family matters. Which was a good thing too, as invitations to flashy launches are my very own brand of kryptonite. On receipt of one, my fortitude crumbles more quickly than Mary Berry on amphetamine.
And so, thankfully, my recurring dream – of rolling up to a UTV do, helplessly caught in a tractor-beam comprised of fancy canapés and free Prosecco, only for Frank Mitchell and Sarah Travers to quietly have a word with security, and have this unwelcome floater flushed out – didn't become a premonition. Luckily they sent me the press release instead – which is almost as good, only you have to make your own vol-au-vents.
UTV weren't the only kids in class to show us theirs, unbidden. BBC NI may not have trumpeted it in quite so formal a fashion, but nobody within bleating distance of one of our many esteemed "showbiz experts" – the town criers of the inane – will have escaped the fact that "aar wee serial thriller" The Fall is returning to our screens imminently. "Aar wee Jamie Dornan" reprising his role as literal lady-killer Paul "not Phil" Spector.
I was deeply ambivalent about The Fall's women-as-victims schtick the first time round, but maybe the second season revolves around him raping and murdering beloved pets. Can you imagine the outcry then? Especially if it involves goldfish.
Peaky Blinders returns also – the show that made an Ulster-sized chump out of the legend that is Sam Neill by forcing him to do an Ian Paisley impersonation whilst gargling marbles. But fear not pronunciation pedants, he's been groomed this time round by our finest orators, Jimmy Nesbitt and Liam Neeson, apparently.
Of course, no autumn menu from our local auntie would be complete without the thin gruel of the Nolan Show. Sure enough, there it – and he – was this week to demonstrate just why we, as UTV so crudely put it, "buck the trend" when it comes to watching gurning idiots on the box.
Special mention must also go to another TV launch this week. One that may have slipped below the radar, but is definitely worth checking out. The Belfast community channel Northern Visions TV came back into our freeview purview (or online if you're outside the city) with local history, music, arts, and community programming at its core.
It may not be slick, but it has its heart and often its head in exactly the right places. And it is a genuinely valuable and interesting documenter of places and people and stories that make up "here", in a way that The Magazine probably isn't.
Collapse the Box, for example, explored the lives of women in three ethnic minority communities and their lives within a multi-cultural (there I've said it!) Belfast.
And it was engrossing and as Norn Irish as Jackie Fullerton's v-necks. It was also slightly disorienting to witness a TV channel that didn't simply cast ethnic minorities as victims in bad news stories. It's always nice to be reminded in any way that we are so much more than golf, parades and rubbish ships because it's easy to forget, innit?
Depressing run through of our dark, troubled times
Have you ever heard of the Dunning Kruger effect, psychology fans? Well, I'll tell you anyway. It's a famous study that shows that unskilled individuals tend to suffer from mistaken superiority.
Conversely, people with true ability tend to underestimate their competence based on the exaggerated claims made by those others. Or, as Yeats put it, "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity".
I'm minded of this often when gazing at local output on the gogglebox. It slapped me like a wet kipper in the face watching Nolan this week. But I felt like I was running the wet-kipper gauntlet for a full 55 minutes when watching Peter Taylor's Who Won The War? (BBC1). Taylor is one of those rare journalists who is accorded respect across the broad spectrum of political denominations here.
And in this instance, he used this access to prod (excuse the pun) at the abscess that is the state we're in post good-Friday agreement. The saddest thing, apart from the fact that he concluded that nobody had actually won the war (begging the question, what was it for?) was the depressing array of figures, instrumental in leading us into and through those dark times. And to borrow from Gerry Adams: "They haven't gone away you know."
Dubious and awkward, it’s must-see TV
Anybody see the Paedophile Hunter (C4) this week? Blimey, it was grimmer than an almanac of German folk tales. Stinson Hunter was a 32-year-old vigilante who masqueraded as underage girls online to ensnare paedophiles.
It was both gripping and depressing to see Stinson, who seemed to have something of a damaged past, “groom the groomers”, and it raised all sorts of awkward issues.
There was the uncomfortable speculation as to what exactly his motivations were and the fact that he often had a better conviction rate than the police, albeit through extremely morally dubious methods. A rare must-see doc on Channel 4.
Oh You Pretty Things: (BBC 4)
Oh you Pretty Things thumbed through the back-pages of fashion and pop music. Some lovely footage, some great reminiscences and somebody from 1979 has stolen my look. Also, if you're in the mood, do YouTube David Cameron saying he “resents” the poor at THE Tory Conference. Nary a Freudian slip in sight.
Perfection: (BBC 2)
Buddha in a hatchback! The road to Nirvana's got quite a few potholes in it these days. But at least now perfect spiritual peace comes with a generous cash bonus. Or as BBC described its underwhelming day time quiz: “Nick Knowles challenges people to achieve perfection and win £1,000.”