TV & Radio

Corny dramas and unnecessary Church bashing

Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor.

Last week I wrote about some good British dramas on TV. They tend to put American dramas in the shade – the latter are marred too frequently by embarrassing corniness. 

I’ve been following Designated Survivor on Netflix and after a promising start, dramatically speaking (US President and Congress blown up in a terrorist attack), it has dwindled substantially into a humdrum political drama. It feels more and more like a vanity project for Kiefer Sutherland, who, as the new inexperienced President, takes off his glasses for significant moments more than is artistically healthy, and while he’s independent of party affiliation the Democrats come out best, wouldn’t you know. 

Natascha McElhone is shamefully wasted as his wife and in fact she didn’t appear at all in a few recent episodes. 

It’s often uncannily topical, as in an episode that was partly about difficulties in appointing Supreme Court judges. I dozed during last Thursday’s episode when one of the main plot lines was controversy over an arts grant! 

They also fitted in a political demagogue addressing an alt-right rally, and the President attending a children’s choir recital where they sang a Gospel song. 

Very much Gospel-connected, last Sunday night’s Would You Believe? (RTÉ One) was a special about denominational primary schooling, but while there were some efforts to be balanced, the main thrust of it was, I thought, either antagonistic or unsympathetic to Catholic education as it is currently. 

A considerable number of parents were interviewed, but only one was positive about Catholic schooling. We didn’t learn how few were the cases where schools were oversubscribed. 

We heard almost nothing about the concerns of Church of Ireland schools, and while there were several contributions from Paul Rowe of Education Together, there was nothing from bodies that support denominational education, e.g. the Catholic Schools Partnership, Catholic Primary Schools Management Association or the Iona Institute. The section on Gaelscoil patronage was interesting and I’d like to have heard more about that.


Education was one of the topics discussed when Maria Steen of the Iona Institute was on Brendan O’Connor’s Cutting Edge (RTÉ One) Wednesday night of last week. She had lots of interesting things to say about Montessori and home education and ably promoted a pro-life perspective in the relevant segment of the show. 

Comedian Tommy Tiernan was all over the place on the issue. He reassured us that if abortion was legalised it wouldn’t be compulsory (he didn’t note that it would be compulsory for any baby targeted) and thought that we should base our approach on a position of compassion – can’t argue with that, but why didn’t that get him to a position of disapproving of abortion? With stunning lack of logic he suggested that because it’s done abroad we should have it here. 

Journalist Alison O’Connor was upfront about accepting that the unborn baby was actually a child. Some might admire her frankness, or what nowadays is often called ‘honesty’, but in a way it was therefore all the more disturbing that she supported the pro-choice position. 

She said the right to bodily autonomy trumped the right to life – how have we come to this? 

The right to life is the most basic of all and enshrined in all major human rights documents while other claimed rights (like ‘choice’ and ‘autonomy’) are dependent on it. In fact you’ll struggle to find those latter ‘rights’ in these human rights documents at all. 


Finally, last weekend reports emerged about the possibility of Stephen Fry being fined for blasphemy over his appearance a few years ago on The Meaning of Life With Gay Byrne. I thought this was a peculiar story and wondered what agenda was being served. On The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) last Monday morning Fr Vincent Twomey also thought it was rather strange that it had surfaced now. 

He couldn’t remember any outrage at the time, and thought the original Fry comments were part of the ongoing debate about evil and suffering in the world and pointed out that Jesus was originally condemned on a blasphemy charge. 

He suggested that in Ireland we were ‘punch drunk’ from attacks on the Church and he criticised fellow guest, Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland for mockery of Catholic beliefs in some satirical fantasy of a religion, complete with wafers, dedicated to former Minister Dermot Ahern. It was about time someone called him out on that. 


Pick of the week

Leap of Faith

RTĖ Radio 1, Friday, May 12, 10.02pm
Last episode in the current series of the religious affairs show, with Michael Comyn. 


EWTN, Tuesday, May 16, 11.30am and Friday 9.30pm
Church historians discuss the Waldensian heresy and reveal the real reasoning behind Galileo’s interrogation.

Everybody Loves Raymond
Channel 4, Wednesday, May 17, 8am
Debra challenges Ray on why he doesn’t go to church on Sundays.