Ireland with Ardal O'Hanlon, More4 | reviews, news & interviews
Ireland with Ardal O'Hanlon, More4
Ireland with Ardal O'Hanlon, More4
Comic's travelogue keeps it light
There has been an abundance of celebrity travelogues of late and with each one comes a new USP. Speaking just of Ireland, train enthusiast Michael Portillo nabbed the Victorian Bradshaw's rail guides, while the adventurous Christine Bleakley explored its wild side; and now Ardal O'Hanlon uses another set of Victorian guidebooks to take us on a three-part journey through his homeland.
O'Hanlon – beloved for portraying Father Dougal in Father Ted (1995-98), surely the perfect sitcom – proved to be an engaging host. His starting point (but strangely used sparingly during the rest of the hour) was the guidebooks published between 1841 and 1843 under the name SC Hall, but written jointly by Samuel Carter Hall and his wife, Anna Maria, an Anglo-Irish couple who were, respectively, a journalist and a novelist, who wanted to encourage the English to discover Ireland's charms. Mr Hall was, by all accounts, a sanctimonious cove (and reputedly the inspiration for Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit), and O'Hanlon told us the top of the show: “They condescended their way around the country.”
O'Hanlon was jovial with all those he met
He also said he wasn't going to give any of the usual paddy-quackery in programmes about Ireland. You know the drill – the land of saints and scholars, famous for people with a fondness for chat and a taste for the hard stuff, who like diddly-dee music and tell tall stories involving fairies and leprechauns.
So off he went to Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone, reputed to give people the gift of the gab. Then to Lisdoonvarna to meet a third-generation matchmaker, who has had some success in finding the perfect partner for his clients. After that it was up to Derry to take part in a church service, then to Cork for a convention of redheads, of which Ireland has a disproportionate number. He also visited two villages that were rivals in the national "cleanest town" competition.
O'Hanlon was jovial with all those he met (although I thought he was unnecessarily waspish with a bunch of people who believe they have discovered a haunted castle where the ghosts are speaking to them – so much for people condescending their way around Ireland), but there were too many items covered in too little depth, and some people we would have liked to know more about – the frightfully posh, titled owner of Blarney Castle, for example, was on screen for a matter of seconds.
Things looked to pick up when O'Hanlon went to visit the home used as the location for the priests' house in Father Ted (accompanied by a real-life priest, of course). But again this was an opportunity missed, to scratch beneath the surface of a country increasingly moving away from Catholicism. What we got was some less than sparkling conversation, but some terrific shots of the Irish countryside along the way.
Perhaps all travelogues about Ireland are destined to descend into cliché and an advertisement for its many charms, but I wish O'Hanlon had done more to delve a bit deeper into the Irish psyche. The most telling line appeared as the end credits rolled: “With thanks to Tourism Ireland”. But of course!
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