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Creedon takes long way round

WHAT can John Creedon, a Corkman, tell me, a Dubliner, about my native city? Quite a lot, as it turns out, because Creedon is a great talker.

Getting behind the wheel of his father's old Mercedes, which he drove on his Retro Roadtrip last summer, Creedon talks and talks and talks his way through the first episode of Creedon's Cities, a series focusing on our four largest ones.

Unfortunately, little or none of what Creedon has to tell me is new, and even less of it remotely interesting. Creedon's Cities is nothing more than early evening summer filler material stretched like a leaky tarpaulin over an hour of coveted prime time. It's like watching 10 Nationwide reports stuck shakily together with spit and phlegm.

Creedon's mission is to point out "what distinguishes our four largest cities".

He begins, utterly predictably, with a boat trip up the Liffey and under its bridges in the company of local historian and walking-tour guide Pat Liddy.

The two men indulge in bit of a sing-song and have good old chortle about how the Financial Services Centre wouldn't have been there when the Vikings arrived.

"How did people get to Dublin?" asks Liddy. "They came across water." What, you mean there were no cheap Ryanair flights back then either? "Without the River Liffey there would be no Dublin today," Liddy adds.

The choice of music is as random as Liddy's comments, springing from As Time Goes By to The Jam's Going Underground as Creedon heads down into the sewers to follow the River Poddle under the city's streets.

Series such as the BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets have shown that the social history of a city can be riveting. Creedon's Cities, however, brushes up against so many subjects so lightly that it never stays in one place long enough to impart anything of substance. Creedon visits St Michan's Church to inspect the 800-year-old preserved remains held in its vaults and then drops by the Natural History Museum to see the insect collection.

Nothing he encounters in either location is as old or dead as the format of the programme itself, which reminded me of travelogues they used to show in cinemas back in the days of double-features.

There was a quick stop-off at Sweny's pharmacy, which featured in Joyce's Ulysses, a chat about the old days with some Moore Street traders, and a chat with James Connolly's great-grandson, James Heron-Connolly, about the lack of an adequate memorial to the 1916 patriots.

At one point Creedon dressed up as a Georgian gentleman and jokily re-enacted a duel -- great fun for him and the crew, I'm sure, if not for the viewers.

The only time the programme sparked into life was when Creedon flicked through Garry O'Neill's photographs of Dublin street style down the decades: a gloriously evocative treasure trove of images of Teds, Mods, Rockers, Bootboys, Skinheads and New Romantics that in itself would furnish an interesting documentary.

By then, it was too late; Creedon was already looking forward to next week's trip to Galway. Stop the Merc, I want to get out.

I've never been convinced of the merits of live broadcasting, unless it's for sport or breaking news. Volcano Live follows the lead set by the disastrous Planet Earth Live, which consisted of interminable doses of Richard Hammond babbling inside a rain-lashed tent in Africa, while animals refused to perform for night-vision cameras.

Volcanoes, even active ones, tend to be less cooperative than beasts, which means we get long periods of presenter Kate Humble and geologist Iain Stewart standing near a tourist-friendly crater in Hawaii, linking pre-recorded footage of spectacular lava action elsewhere.

The images are breathtaking and the science engrossing, but why the need for this costly, four-night self-indulgence when the whole thing could have been presented just as effectively from a studio?

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