TV & Radio

Heroes, role models and flimsy stereotypes

Robert Shaw and Paul Scofi eld in A Man for all Seasons.

Films from the 1960s tend to look very dated – what with garish colours and embarassing haircuts – but I find the film Man For All Seasons (RTÉ One, Saturday) still held up well.

Paul Schofield, whose work was more on stage than on film, turns in an Oscar-winning performance as St Thomas More, in dispute with Henry VIII. 

There are lots of absorbing set pieces but two scenes in particular stand out for me. The last meeting between More and his family in the Tower of London dungeon is a poignant farewell, working well on an emotional level regardless of the history. 

In particular the relationship with his wife is tense but respectful. His daughter tries to get him to rationalise his position to get out of prison, but tough as it is he chooses to go with his conscience. In an age when anti-heroes are so common in films and TV drama, it’s good to have good role models, especially to inspire young people.

Then there’s the trial sequence – an education in the finer points of law, conscience and church-state relations that has plenty of resonance for our times. Interestingly More is no rabid campaigner, he doesn’t publicly object to Henry’s carry on, but remains silent rather than swearing assent. 

If anything, he says in his defence, silence implies consent, but it’s not enough to save him. There’s that striking moment when he subtly upbraids Richard Rich for committing perjury in return for a new title – “what does it profit a man if he gives his soul for the whole world ...but for Wales?” Sadly, the days of people compromising conscience for political gain are not over yet.

Could one get farther from the artistic and religious merit of that film to the mockery of Brigid and Eamon (RTÉ 2, Tuesday nights)? The series pokes fun at an 1980s couple who are sporadically religious. One could take this as a send up of religious hypocrisy and superstition, but to me it seems like a flimsy premise on which to hang some unsubtle stereotyping. 

In last week’s episode there was allegedly a moving statue in their living room – the gullible locals were impressed, the camp gay priest was dismissive and the whole thing was mildly crude, mostly flat, with an occasional smile (the Gerry Adams caricature was mildly funny). The fact that they were using a statue of Our Lady as a coat rack says a lot. It was made for RTÉ by Pure Class Productions, but it was neither pure nor class. Sad to think Government grant money was spent on this.

Ups and downs

Philip Mulryne was earning tons of money as a professional footballer with Manchester United and Norwich but found it all very unsatisfying. He craved flash cars but soon tired of the latest model - he realised he was ‘made for much more’. On Today with Seán O’Rourke, (RTÉ Radio 1, Thursday) he told of the ups and downs of his life which led him recently to be ordained a priest with the Dominicans. 

Like many vocation stories there was influence from faith inspired family members in the background. Now he feels liberated in his new vowed lifestyle, believes it’s a great time to be Catholic and is looking forward to his role as chaplain in Newbridge College. 

Meanwhile I’ve been following a podcast (like radio on demand), Up and Vanished, which is investigating the 2005 disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a young teacher and beauty queen from Georgia in the US. Host Payne Lindsey declares that he is motivated only by a desire for truth and justice, which is fair enough, but over the last few months suspicions have been aired liberally. I doubt if this would happen under Ireland’s libel laws. 

An update, Tuesday of last week, was a ‘Case Evidence’ special which featured a long social media exchange between one of the suspects arrested and an online contact. The crime scene details were disturbing but at least one bizarre detail surfaced for the first time. As this suspect described how he had helped a friend (the only one indicted on a murder charge) to dispose of Grinstead’s body he told of saying the Lord’s Prayer as they set the fire. He knew she was a Christian and wanted to show some respect! 

The story is ongoing. 


Pick of the week


EWTN, Sunday, July 23, 8pm
Families share how they have made their homes into sacred spaces of peace and love.

RTÉ Radio 1, Tuesday, July 11, 1pm
With a referendum on abortion in Ireland in the pipeline, Documentary on One travels to Iceland to get a snapshot of a country which has a vastly contrasting legal situation to Ireland.


EWTN, Thursday, July 27, 9pm
Humanitarian and L’Arche founder, Jean Vanier, shares his thoughts and discusses the challenges the youth face from his retreat centre Trosly, France.