Ross Kemp's Extreme World: Twelfth of July filming showed pettiness, bleating and grimly predictable violence
Less than a week after the Newtownabbey Bible play row made Northern Ireland an international laughing stock, the country was back on the world stage for all the wrong reasons last night.
In the latest episode of Ross Kemp's Extreme World series, the erstwhile EastEnder spent some time in the province trying to get his gleaming dome around why we're still fighting, 16 years after the Good Friday Agreement.
Kemp began by meeting a pair of rival taxi tour operators, who showed him around Belfast's peace walls. The revelation that there have been more of the walls built since 1998 than there were before seemed to wrong-foot the host, and when they reached the ominous gates that separate the two communities, Belfast suddenly resembled King Kong's island.
Next, Kemp headed to Derry-Londonderry. The dual name will have had viewers in, say, Norwich or Dundee, scratching their heads at our pedantry almost as much as this writer was at Kemp's fanciful notion that if it weren't for the city's terrorist graffiti, "you could be fooled into thinking you were somewhere in the south of France".
No dissident republicans were willing to be interviewed, but Gary Donnelly, of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, articulated their argument in a chillingly composed manner that was at odds with the ranting and raving elsewhere in the programme, not least that of an Orangeman, whose Ulster accent was so strong he had to be subtitled.
"You watch what our people do later on," the sash-clad buffoon raged, ahead of a contentious parade.
Also in the north west, Kemp observed a police raid on a weapons store. The convoy of monstrous tactical vehicles and stormtrooper-looking officers made it resemble a scene from Star Wars. "Anywhere else in the UK, this kind of raid would be headline news," Kemp noted, illustrating both how commonplace such incidents have become here and how fed-up mainland audiences are of hearing about it.
And they're not the only ones. As one 'side' bleated about being "underdogs" and the other bemoaned their supposed status as "second-class citizens", the pettiness of the mindset here was exposed for all to see.
Meanwhile, the multiple monikers of the IRA – Real, Continuity, New – made the terrorist grouping seem more like a warring 1970s rock band than anything to be afraid of.
The facepalm moments continued with Kemp's visit to a bonfire site. There, he met a 15-year-old who admitted he didn't know what the beacons symbolise. "I just grew up with it," the lad shrugged, as toes curled across the province.
A behind-the-scenes encounter with a loyalist marching band was illuminating, as was a chat with the chief of the PSNI squad policing the Ardoyne stand-off in the run-up to the Twelfth.
Detective Inspector Graham Dodds insisted they didn't regard themselves as riot police. "If I don't have to put this helmet on, for me it's a successful day," he said.
In that grimly predictable way of Northern Ireland, in the next scene, he had his helmet on.