Wednesday, September 16, 2020

By Timmy Ryan, Broadcaster and Liquorist


Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star

WE’RE just about at that time of year again when any number of new television series start to hit our screens. The autumn schedule is usually poised to fill the viewer with joyful anticipation of a feast of TV to while away those dark nights closing in. I chuckled recently to see the delight expressed on Facebook posts of people who openly admit to loving the fact that Fair City has returned! However, each to his own and we’ve had enough snatched from us during this pandemic so I shouldn’t begrudge our treasured national soap getting back on its feet.

I’m always on the lookout for something decent to watch and my ‘decent’ invariably doesn’t include soaps, cooking, dancing or celebs traipsing around Ireland in camper vans. So, with much trepidation, I scanned through a guide of the upcoming autumn fayre with a few possibilities that will, at least initially, go on my ‘might watch’ list.


‘If I was to entrust anyone to give me a true and impartial view of POTUS it would be Louis Theroux’


I’ve always enjoyed a bit of Alfred Hitchcock so I’ll be curious to see how the lovely Lily James (Downton Abbey) fares in Netflix’s version of Daphne du Maurier’s classic thriller ‘Rebecca’.

Starting this week on ITV, this one could be a bit creepy and it’s a true-life story. David Tennant, formerly Dr. Who himself, and star of ‘Broadchurch’, plays the role of notorious serial killer Dennis Nilsen in this three-part series. Known as ‘Des’, Nilsen murdered at least 12 men in London in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Apparently, the drama avoids showing the murders, but instead delves into events following his arrest. If I’m honest I’m in two minds about watching it. Is yet another tale of grizzly murder what the world needs now?

From the 18th of this month, something interesting for fans of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ in the form of a prequel called ‘Ratched’. This is the story of how the formidable nurse Ratched in the film arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital “where new and unsettling experiments have begun on the human mind”.

We all remember this ice queen who gave poor Jack Nicholson such a hard time. Could be worth a look.

No doubt there’ll be the odd diamond in the rough this autumn but to be honest, putting the rest in the shade for me right now is a programme running over the next few weeks on the Beeb. To me he’s now a telly legend and someone has had the wonderful idea to get him to pour through his archives of amazing experiences in documentary land and introduce us to his best moments down through the years. I’m referring to the utterly brilliant Louis Theroux, purveyor of television gold.

‘Louis Theroux – Life on the Edge’ has already begun on BBC 2 and if late to it, you might want to go back and see it on repeat. The great news though is there’s three more weeks to go. I was rivetted to the opening episode as he hooked up again with some of the people he first interviewed many years back.

I almost envy you if you are getting to see this having never watched Louis before. What a treat you’re in for.

I rate him as one of the best interviewers around and there must be oodles of stuff he hopefully will get round to doing in the future. His unobtrusive, non-judgemental style and gentle presence allow his subjects to open up and you get the sense they feel very comfortable with him. He has struck gold with some of his topics, particularly the ones filmed in the U.S., ranging from religion, to porn to survivalists to extremely bizarre alien hunters.

His time spent with the late Jimmy Saville will doubtless feature on one of the shows. Compulsive viewing to say the least. To this day, from a distance years on from his programme featuring the shamed former broadcaster, Theroux wonders if he might have spotted signs of Saville’s real character. Hindsight and all that.

I’ve seen a lot of documentaries in my time, but no one gets to the heart of the matter like Louis. One time he focused on the strange and murky world of Scientology and here again, he gets you right up close and personal with those involved and gives us the lowdown concerning this so called ‘religion’ and how it and its members really operate.

Son of well-known writer Paul Theroux, Louis recently spoke candidly of his non-religious upbringing but admitted that although he doesn’t believe in God, he finds religion fascinating and in the series, you’ll see him spend some time with a Christian group in the States and here again, Louis doesn’t judge his interviewees or act condescendingly in any way.

A good listener makes the best interviewer in my book and Louis scores top marks here. Likeable in the extreme, it’s actually difficult for anyone he chats with to be annoyed or angered by him. He’s just very good at this job.

News has it that he would love to do a programme on Donald Trump. That would be an hour or two worth the TV licence. He has likened the proposal to his show with Magician Paul Daniels and his wife Debbie Magee. In that programme it was Debbie who made the show while Daniels seemed to be largely in the background which created a more interesting portrait of Daniels in the end. Louis reckons that he would get a greater insight into Donald Trump if the show was mainly focused on Melania with her husband in the background. It’s an interesting proposition indeed and if I was to entrust anyone to give me a true and impartial view of POTUS it would be Louis Theroux.

Back to his current show. There are far too many golden moments to unpack here but over the course of the next few Sunday nights, the nuggets of over 25 years of shows will come thick and fast. Simply put, the man is a master of his craft. Strap yourself in for real autumnal gold. ‘Louis Theroux: Life on the Edge’ airs Sundays at 9pm on BBC Two.

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By Timmy Ryan
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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