John Boland’s week in TV: RT’s obsession with poshed-up properties knows no bounds –

Posted By on February 23, 2020

What's the difference between Room to Improve (RT1) and the same channel's The Great House Revival? None, really, except that the former is presented by cheeky chappie Dermot Bannon and the latter by the rather more grand Hugh Wallace.

Both architects, though, are intent on the same mission of showing the viewer how to turn dilapidated wrecks into homes of wonder - with Bannon the hands-on visionary, and Wallace content to marvel at the efforts of others.

The viewer, meanwhile, couldn't care less and may indeed be wondering at RT's obsession with transforming already overpriced properties into repositories of bling. But if you feel obliged to watch these makeover shows, the trick is to have a gander at the first five minutes, when the house is in a dire state, and then fast-forward to the last five minutes, with everyone going ooh-and-aah at what's been achieved.

That way you can avoid all the boringly predictable bits in between: the budget overruns, the time delays, the fiddly snags that no one but the client cares a hoot about. And thus, in Monday night's first instalment of The Great House Revival, when Wallace announced that "the first major task is the demolition of the breeze-block extension", my immediate thought was: I'm out of here.

But, for whatever reason, I lingered as businesswoman Fiona Kelly took on the task of restoring the leaky Georgian ruin that she'd bought in Phibsborough for 450,000 and was rebuilding to its former glory for a further 500,000.

A very cool customer, she was given to such pronouncements as: "If I want something, I go after it and make sure I get it" and "I'll probably be a little bit of a thorn in everybody's side". And, sure enough, she got her way with a house so striking that Wallace could only summon up superlatives, while viewers who can't afford to buy any kind of home in our capital city could only wonder at the extravagant effrontery of it all.

If you wished to put such lifestyle nonsense in perspective, Lost Lives (BBC1) was the film to watch. This was adapted from the 1999 book of the same name in which journalist David McKittrick and four colleagues chronicled the lives and deaths of the 3,637 men, women, children and babies who died as a direct result of the Troubles from June 11, 1966, to October 31, 1998.

Everyone should have this great book on their shelves and should open it regularly at any page, where they'll find heartbreaking reminders of the savagery and futility of violent conflict. And if this film, which focused on just some of these lost lives, sent viewers out to buy the book, it will have performed a noble service.

It wasn't easy to watch, starting with the killing of nine-year-old Patrick Rooney, hit while in his West Belfast bed by an RUC tracer bullet in August 1969, and ending with the September 1998 suicide of 42-year-old Billy Giles, who had been jailed in 1982 for killing a Catholic friend, though "it didn't matter who it was", he recalled soon before he took his own life.

The spoken text throughout the film came from the book and was read by professional actors, including Kenneth Branagh, Liam Neeson, Brd Brennan, Susan Lynch, Ciarn Hinds, Adrian Dunbar and Bronagh Gallagher. And the archive newsreel footage, which was expertly woven into the narrative, contributed to a wrenching film.

I never liked comedian David Baddiel, especially in his 1990s heyday with similarly blokey Frank Skinner, but both men have become more thoughtful (and bearable) as they've aged, and this week's Confronting Holocaust Denial with David Baddiel (BBC2) had its arresting moments.

Jewish and with family members who perished in the concentration camps, he wanted to know how one in six people around the world believe that either the extermination of six million people by the Nazis never happened or that the figure was greatly exaggerated.

This led him to a dilemma. "Will this programme inadvertently fan the flames of denial?" he wondered aloud and he wondered it again in the presence of Deborah Lipstadt, who had been unsuccessfully sued by rogue historian David Irving for calling him a Holocaust denier.

"I don't want to give legitimacy to these people. I don't want to give them a platform," he told Lipstadt's lawyer Anthony Julius. "So don't," Julius replied.

Instead, he took himself off to Ennis in Co Clare, where he met Irish denier Dermot Mulqueen, who had received a five-month sentence in 2015 for smashing a TV set in the town square with an axe on Holocaust Memorial Day and declaring it to be Fake Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mulqueen told him that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz or other camps and then asked why, if these things had happened, so many Jews opted to buy Mercedes cars. After that, he sang a virulently antisemitic song, which Baddiel thought "one of the weirdest moments of my life".

So why give this poisonous rubbish any publicity?

Homeland (RT2/Channel 4) started its eighth and final season with Carrie back on her meds, having been deprived of them in the Russian gulag where she'd been incarcerated for almost a year.

So had the Russians turned her into a double agent? Well, mentor Saul doesn't think so and has sent her back into the Afghan fray. But so far this season there's been too much about Carrie and her mental state and too little about the state of the world, which is where this series used to excel.

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John Boland's week in TV: RT's obsession with poshed-up properties knows no bounds -

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