Belfast Telegraph

BBC's aim true with this little gem of a local show

By Joe Nawaz

As in life, so in television. I'm not saying everybody does a Danny Dyer on receiving bad news, or that Miranda is exactly the kind of person who'd be beating them off with a Kerry blackthorn in real life.

I'm saying, in a manner so roundabout even I'm looking for the exit, that 2014 was a year of highs and lows.

For every David Attenborough there was a Dapper Laughs, and for every True North a Tumble. So, keeping one bloodshot eye warily on the year ahead, let's wallow in a little hastily mustered nostalgia for 2014.

Best local produce: True North continued to be the best thing BBCNI has ever done by several furlongs.

Be it horse whisperers, magic-believers or residents along a sectarian interface, with each episode True North projected a searching beam of illumination onto a particular sub-section of our surprisingly diverse society. Or - if you prefer - it was dead good and informative.

Even the "controversial" Larne episode was rather sweet. Portraying Larne as a slightly odd, magical place is, I'd say, a huge step-up for the much maligned coastal town.

Hogging the airwaves: Stephen Nolan was more ubiquitous than nitrogen this year. And it was nigh on impossible not to swallow a lungful, no matter how long you tried to hold your breath.

His radio programmes ran, his chat/shout/music TV show showed, his Five Gold Rings, um, rang, and then there was Story Of A Lifetime, which veered wildly between OK magazine-style narcissist tat and genuinely insightful and sensitive broadcasting.

It all depended on whether the subject had been through tabloid hell or genuine hardship. My lowlight of the series was the one-man self-pity party Calum Best.

Keep it country: I'm a city boy at heart, so it can't have been the call of the wild that got me excited about more rurally located broadcasting this year.

Maybe it was just that we're so much better at television that's truest to our cultural strengths.

Our studio-bound attempts to be like grown-up "national" TV over the water/border usually tend to be a little dated (Exhibit A m'lud: The Magazine, Nolan Show and that UTV 2014 Round-up. Jings.)

Conversely, when we let the likes of Barra Best, Daryl Grimason and Joe Mahon explore our railway lines, rivers and country houses the results are hugely enjoyable and grown-up. And nobody needs to pretend to be on the One Show. Don't get me wrong - there is a limit. The Gaitherin' might just be it.

Heading for a Fall: Yes yes, I know. I'm a terrible, shallow person who uses big words gratuitously and may actually enjoy deviant sexual practices with several species of protected wildlife for not liking our local psycho thriller The Fall (left). But now the fingerprint dust has settled, come on - it really didn't merit a second series, did it?

I can say it looked beautiful at times and had an impressive cast. But it's time to come clean. A ludicrous conclusion scuppered any of the supposed build-up tension. But what do I know? I'm the guy who gets excited when Emmerdale's Claire King joins the Corrie cast.

So, now we've wiped the slate clean - happy new year one and all. See you at the front lines of TV heaven/hell in 2015.

Brooker brings us some clever comedy to ring out the old year

Typically, one of the best TV shows of the year came at the very end.

Charlie Brooker's 2014 Wipe was your one-stop current affairs shop for practically ALL the major news and cultural events that took place throughout the year.

Funny, furious and insightful, Brooker also used great contributors to flesh out what was the perfect TV almanac of 2014 stuff, from Ukip to Ebola.

It made me wonder, just for a glorious deranged moment, what a genuinely connected, intelligent, funny review programme for Northern Ireland might look like.

But as a godless heathen, I don't believe in miracles.

And my head was once more at peace.

Switch on...

Undateables (CHANNEL 4): I love the Undateables. I love it more than most flavours of ice cream. Admittedly I do have a lactose intolerance, but that’s not to take away from the brilliance of the programme. I’m hugely looking forward to watching the heck out of it, and reporting back on these pages next week.

Switch off...

Celebrity Big Brother (CHANNEL 5): You must be sick of TV after all that seasonal bingeing. You want to hit the gym instead, right? In accordance with your new year resolutions? That’ll at least save you the horror of having to watch Celebrity Big Brother. At least until February when you realise life is too short for unreasonable resolutions...

I’ve had my Phil of pub bore and interior design ‘expert’ Spencer

Phil Spencer? Frank Spencer knows more about interior design.

I saw Phil Spencer in Belfast a few months back. You know the chap?

Bald, tanned, looks like he knows something you don’t, celeb estate agent type? Often found hanging off Kirstie Allsopp?

Anyway, Phil was doing a film shoot, extolling the virtues of the Belfast pub.

Us lunchtime half-pinters were the backdrop for Phil’s take on the Northern “Oirish” experience. He just couldn’t get his line right.

Maybe because he didn’t believe that Belfast pubs really were magical havens of banter and the “black stuff”. But as crowds started to gather, Phil did his duty, rictus grin duly affixed. He asked on more than one occasion if we were all drunk (we weren’t).

On Guinness (very few Guinness drinkers in the Duke of York)?

Now I’m aware of the cultural gap betwixt Middle England and lower Belfast. But I’d assumed that most educated broadcasting types didn’t draw their assumptions about here from the deep cultural well that is The Quiet Man. At least Paxman kept it contemporary.

I was minded of the whole bemusing episode as I watched Phil Spencer: Special Agent. A programme where Phil gets paid to pooh-pooh people’s decor and tut disdainfully as the lower middle orders get their terrazzo mixed up with their chintz. Even if you’ve committed to giving “110%” as was demanded of the couples in the programme, he found time to laugh at terrible colour schemes.

He is that guy who’d ask the fat woman if she was pregnant, and be put out when she didn’t take it well.

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