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Another childish ride on Stephen Nolan's carousel


Stephen Nolan

Stephen Nolan

Stephen Nolan

It's been a while since I've properly watched the Nolan Show. I'm usually too busy having my mid-week fret about this TV column on Wednesday nights to sit down and actually watch even more fretful fare.

Nevertheless, it's good to check in, once in a while. It's like visiting an unpleasant relative at Christmas - you're anxious to begin with, but by the end you're almost grateful, as you tot up your blessings and toddle off.

Unlike Stephen's tailors, in the three series since it first aired, it wouldn't be accurate to say giant strides have been made. If it ain't broke, it's usually worth getting a second opinion to be sure, but the Nolan Show is unencumbered with anything of a reflective quality.

Except perhaps the big, shiny, near-triangular table around which they did the obligatory first "paalaticks" bit. I say near triangle, because, bizarrely, Stephen's body actually forms one of the three points of the "triangle" of tribal wibbling. Whether it's a clunking physical metaphor or they ran out of wood is anybody's guess, but it had the unfortunate effect of making the politicians seem like they were emanating from Nolan - a voluminous star nourishing a solar system of insignificance.

Gregory Campbell and Gerry Kelly were the brightest - only in terms of their proximity to Nolan's White Giant - satellites.

Naomi Long and "awkward" Alban Maginness lined up next and on the far left corner was a pinstriped night-class ceramic who was apparently in the UUP but so remote from the centre of things that even members of the audience didn't know who he was.

The reason they'd been assembled this week to puff and blow was the latest red-herring flavoured hoo-ha of the Four Seat Unionist Pact. It's something you feel would make a better modestly-priced family car than a half-hour talking point.

Prudish Alban wouldn't even look at Gerry's pact, let alone touch it, and Gregory Campbell skilfully quashed the nagging doubt that there wasn't much to choose between his party and Ulster Unionists by explaining the couple of percentage points that divide them on corporation tax.

Meanwhile, Naomi was extolled by an uncomfortable, casually-dressed Peter Robinson to "dry her tears", but he didn't seem to be offering her a hankie. The cad. With nothing new to learn, ludicrous posturing and rhetoric duly dispensed, came the time-honoured jarring shift from political to musical floundering.

Boy band Home Town looked like five kidnapped teenagers and one suspiciously older-looking one ordered to sing, in the knowledge that down the road their families were being held in a lock-up. Then the suspiciously young-looking Louis Walsh (and something called his "music factory") was revealed as the ring-master behind this latest 12-legged cry for help.

Worst of all was the reheated mess of a "debate" about Jeremy Clarkson, and whether he's a rotter or not. A woman from the Daily Mail thought he was, and Stig from Top Gear thought he wasn't. Case closed. "Imagine if it was a presenter from Radio Shropshire using the N-word, or a local radio presenter from say here. Like me!" Stephen angled, fooling nobody.

We all know the only thing worse than people not talking about you, is not watching your show.

It's no Game for those homeless who are living on our streets

Game of Thrones is back!

And its stars all say that Northern Ireland is beautiful! And most of them aren't even contractually obliged to!

Amid all the excitement of the return of the only brutal sex 'n' saucery fantasy to be filmed at Ballintoy Harbour since that Sunday World expose back in the 90s, there was more sobering local programming in the real Norn Iron.

You would have hoped that the Spotlight on the homeless in Belfast would have put a lot of us watching to shame. I'm talking about those of us - me included - who often walk past them awkwardly pretending we can't see a fellow human destitute and huddled in that shuttered shop front. We almost resent them for putting us in this embarrassing position.

The Gerrys and Tommys and Jamies of this programme were shown to be troubled, unfortunate yet bright burning souls who were only separated from us by perhaps a couple of pivotal incidents in their lives. It was easy to get moist-eyed in the comfort of a centrally heated room, curled up on the leatherette settee.

And that's what made it quite unsettling; that disconnect between these very real people a lot of us see every day and the twinkly piano sound-tracked sadness packaged for our, well, not exactly pleasure.

I expect it'll win awards, while Jamie will still be begging for the Salvation Army refuge to let him in on a rainy night six months from now. But I hope not.

Let's face facts, Imagine Ulster came up short when it counted 

As Imagining Ulster trundled to its uninspiring conclusion, it became more and more apparent that it should have been called Imagining Ulster-Scots. The final instalment in the BBC series was so obsessed with expunging diversity of any kind, you were slightly surprised they'd filmed it in colour.

So busy were they in honing the homogeneity, they obviously couldn't spare the resources to research trifling facts, like Edna Longley's name. Which a quick scan of Wikipedia reveals to be Edna Longley.

In the end, it possessed the epic sweep of a B and Q broom. Instead, Imagining Ulster had the queer quality of an expensive, three-hour Ulster-Scots Agency advert.

Save for William Crawley's immaculate English diction, of course.

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Channel 4 News celebrated St Patrick’s Day in typically quirky style. It had a paddy-whacking Muslim imam giving it some musical Celtic welly. Check it out. It’s fun. More Celtic soul could be found in the excellent Sounds of the Emerald Isle series. Weird, though, that it was shown on BBC4 before we at BBCNI are privileged with this celebration of our music in the coming week.

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Did you know that the executive producer of EastEnders is called Dominic Treadwell-Collins? Just saying. Oh, and Eat to Live Forever with Giles Coren was rather unpleasant, both on the mental dietary habits on display and the unedifying narcissism that underpinned the programme.

Belfast Telegraph