Belfast Telegraph

TV View: You may laugh, but this Ulster accent is sexy... like

The programmes to watch and the ones you really want to miss

By Joe Nawaz

So it's official. 'Norn Irish' is the sexiest accent in the UK. According to a recent survey of such things, the land of Liam Neeson, Ian Paisley and Frostbit Boy was the colloquial tongue that set cheeks aflame. On reading it, an acquaintance puckishly remarked to me in his clattering North Antrim brogue, that it wasn't even the sexiest accent in Northern Ireland, hi.

I certainly wasn't weak-kneed at the prospect of being serenaded with a "shift" on the number 7 bus the other day where the ambient chatter sounded exactly like a box of distressed albatrosses caught in six-pack rings.

But I suppose to other regions of 'The Kingdom', we're as close as they're going to get to exotic without breaking out the 'Allo 'Allo accents. There is a certain romance in the north eastern Irish cadence to your average Englisher, even if they still hear the theme to Harry's Game in their heads every time Christine Bleakley presents This Morning. It's why we're always hired for Hollyoaks and James Nesbitt is still in steady employment post-post-hair.

It certainly became an accent everybody was desperate to hear on the Jimmy Kimmel chat show earlier in the week after Jamie Dornan read from 50 Shades of Grey in a "Cork" accent that left you fearful he was about to ask you to spare his lucky charms.

But just as we struggle to do authentic accents from other parts of Ireland without going Darby O'Gill, ours is a notoriously tricky accent to mimic itself.

I'm thinking Brad Pitt in Devil's Own for one in a depressingly extensive pantheon of shame. Even I struggle when attempting a full "authenteek" Belfast accent, which ends up sounding like a vaguely threatening, high pitched cry for help. The late, great Robin Williams inadvertently hit the nail on the head when he said, "I have a difficult time doing an Irish accent, even now, it kind of fades slowly into Scottish." Which is kind of exactly how you do an Northern Ireland accent, prospective English actors taking part in the next inevitable Troubles epic.

And it was rather wonderful to hear the local burr at the Baftas last Sunday as the Northern Irish team behind the short film Boogaloo and Graham made off with the gong in that category - a welcome serving of vinegar amongst the plums.

This year's Baftas seemed more self-congratulatory and detached from reality than usual. Think Stormont today with tuxes and backless dresses (sincere apologies if you're currently eating).

Married life seems to have turned host Stephen Fry from secular saint into Alan Partridge, as he attempted an impersonation of Stephen Hawking's robot voice.

And when he was speaking in his own voice it wasn't much better. He kept saying stuff like "to present it (the next award) is an artist who won a Bafta in Walk the Line, is nominated for a Bafta this evening for walking in a line, and will walk here after I've said this line. It's Reece Witherspoon!"

It was lovely of course to hear the great Mike Leigh make "Bafta" repeatedly sound like "bastards", but when writer Ronan Blaney, director Michael Lennox and producer Brian J Falconer took to the stage - squeezed in at the very end by the TV edit - it suddenly occurred why so many English sorts love our accent so much. It means they don't have to hear themselves for a few brief idyllic moments.

Aussies shouldn't have a berth on the good ship Eurovision

"The Australians are coming" isn't a phrase that usually inspires a world-weary girding of your tolerance threshold. All that enforced mateyness grates more quickly than my battery operated cheese-slicer. Now, with all the crushing predictability of a Number 2s script, they've now been given a berth on Eurovision. There are, I hasten to add, many lovely Antipodeans.

My ire stems purely from the fact that, y'know, Australia isn't in Europe.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say, it's not only not in Europe, but its actually a bloody continent in itself. I mean, I know they sound and look vaguely like us, and share our "earthy" attitude to immigration and the like, but surely the clue is in the contest title?

I'm speaking as somebody who raged at Israel's acceptance to the Eurovision fold for mostly geographical reasons, although they did bring us Dana International - to be confused with Dana. I know there's a noble lineage of Aussies who've sung in the Eurovision song contest (well, Gina G and Olivia Newton John) but that's the thing about fortress Eurovision, we'll welcome you into the fold if you kneel to the yolk of a European flag.

Rumours are that Kylie will be the Aussie's diminutive helium-infused champion, but really, would it be so difficult for her to get a temporary visa for Moldova and then belt out a song in dodgy English about amorous milk maids, accompanied by a tuba and a four to the floor Eurodisco beat?

Weather-wise, the outlook is  so different on BBC and UTV

I had the weird sensation of watching UTV and BBC NI weather back-to-back the other day. To say they go down distinctly different lines of presentation is an understatement on the scale of your typical Swiss HSBC bank account.

Barra Best at the Beeb displayed a conductor's flourish in front of an actual meteorological map 'quirked up' with those obscure place names the researchers must dig up from old 19th century ordnance maps.

The Drones, for example, is a place that even residents of The Drones are unaware of.

Frank Mitchell, meanwhile, bestrides a live backdrop of Kircubbin like a weather god from the old times.

Thor in chunky pinstripe, if you like - offering Sphinx-like riddles to nobody in particular and then answering them, again seemingly for his own amusement.

Well, you've got to have a system, don't you?

Switch on

Cleopatra a time watch guide - Was Cleopatra hot? Was she black? Doesn't really matter, she wasn't even Egyptian really. But the antiquarian geek in me had huge amounts of fun watching the ages of Cleopatra on BBC4 last Tuesday. And Wolf Hall. Wow.

Switch off

10000 BC - Stone the crows! Or fling rocks at anything that moves! If you're trying to survive the Mesolithic age as reimagined in a regional forest park, you'll use anything to get your grub in.

Belfast Telegraph


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