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Can Kenny hold The Front Line?


TV REVIEW

There is no doubt about it. Pat Kenny is much better on politics than he is on entertainment.
The former Late Late front man is back and this time he is on The Frontline. No, he hasn’t been sent to Iraq or indeed any other war-torn front, The Frontline is the new Questions and Answers and Pat is the new John Bowman.
Anyone who listens to Kenny’s radio show on Radio One will know that he is one of the best on these islands when it comes to interviewing politicians and getting to the root of some awkward questions. And, I am pleased to say, he has managed to keep this high standard in his new television home.
Yes, Pat was very wooden on The Late Late Show but his role as master of ceremonies on this current affairs programme casts him in a different light. He seems relaxed and quite able.
Of course, the first show only aired on Monday night but its first edition was very interesting. The format is not unlike Questions and Answers. There are some invited guests and commentators from the Irish media as well as a studio audience who are invited to contribute throughout the show. The phone lines are also open, thus allowing the viewing public to chime in if they see fit. The only real difference, host aside, is that rather than a panel, made up largely of politicians, activist and commentators there are a few guests. In the first part of the show, these were a bank representative and a building representative. In the latter, it was the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and therefore it is easy to surmise that this first show was all about the National Assests Management Fund (NAMA).
The show’s mandate is to deal with the important issues affecting the country and in this first programme, they certainly managed that. The interview with the Minister for Finance was a good one. Pat asked the questions we wanted answered and, even if he didn’t always get the answers he was looking for, he deserves full marks for trying.
Now, don’t for one moment think that I am not being critical of the show. Yes, there were flaws and yes some questions could have been asked better or Pat could have gotten more information from the people in the studio audience but, by and large, this was standard current affairs programming.
It dealt with an issue that is on everyone’s minds and it interviewed the man at the centre of it all. It also gave Joe Soap a chance to have their say and, for me, that’s what these kinds of programmes are supposed to do.
The Frontline will never solve the issues of the day but in Pat’s hands it will give a platform for them to be discussed – that’s what is needed.
The Frontline is on every Monday night on RTÉ One.
Also back on our screens this week is The Apprentice with Bill Cullen. In light of the current economic situation I was actually surprised to see it return but back it is.
The latest bunch of ‘wannabes’ have all debuted on the show now and we even had our first casualty – Craig Butler, living in Cavan but originally from Naas in Kildare.
This first show was interesting enough. The groups were set a challenge and one of the losing team was sent home.
The formula is the same but the comments change and that is what keeps us coming back. Bill was in fine form and his two advisers were quick tongued this time around as well. Whether the show will attract as many viewers as before remains to be seen but, if the tough talk of some of the contestants is to be believed, we are in for one hell of a show.
Also, on TV3 this year is The Apprentice – You’re Fired. This is a spin-off from the show that has previously been seen on the British version of the hit programme. It has often proven to be more interesting than the show itself with contestants really letting rip. However, as the first show has only aired it is hard to judge if it will have the same impact as the British version.
I like to think that as the weeks go by this side of the franchise will come in to its own. The Apprentice double bill begins at 9pm on TV3 on Mondays.
Maeve Higgins’ Fancy Vittles is one of those shows that you either love or hate. To be honest, when I first watched it I wasn’t sure what was going on. But, after another look, I have decided that I really like it. I have never really warmed to Maeve Higgins’ comedy and I didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about her but after viewing Fancy Vittles I can announce, not that you care, that I get it.
I finally get it.
She is very funny and her observational humour, although off the wall, is very intelligent. However, as good as Maeve is, her sister, who is truly silent for the entire show, is wonderful. Her silence alone steals the show as she just gets on with preparing delicious meals for their guests. Her straight-man to Maeve’s funny-man works very well and I couldn’t help but giggle the whole way through the show. As I say, you may not like it but I found it very entertaining.
I only hope that the rest of the programmes live up to the first show’s good start. Maeve Higgins’ Fancy Vittles is on Tuesday nights at 10.30pm on RTÉ Two.

One to watch
If you are home on Sunday night this week, check out the second part of Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour. In my humble opinion Kevin is the Mary Poppins of men -practically perfect in every way – is presenting a programme based on the journey of the great British architect Ingio Jones who had a major influence on the architectural style of many of Britain’s great squares.
What makes this programme so interesting, beyond Kevin’s wonderful voice-overs and excellent presenting technique, is the fact that he meets with the locals in each town. Of course, he converses in their language because practically perfect Kevin speaks many modern European languages – swoon! My clear crush aside, however, this programme delves in to some fascinating places and unlocks many wonderful things about the architects and the architecture itself.
Check it out on Channel 4 on Sunday night at 9pm.

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