Tuesday 28 January 2020

Daniel was catch of the day

O'Gorman (Tuesday, RTE1)

We saw Paddy (with Snoop the dog) tramping along the tracks of the West Clare Railway and off into the sunset. Well, more of a bleak autumnal gloom than a sunset, really, but he still looked very slightly like an enigmatic anti-hero from a Spaghetti Western (if you squinted a bit).

Or, more accurately, Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven. Prior to this, he spent a lot of time chugging along, incredibly slowly, inside the restored "Slieve Callan" steam train.


He talked to retired teachers about cancer. He met widows who'd found new love. He told a 90-year-old she had "a lovely complexion". It all felt uncannily like Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, the 1965 horror where five train passengers have their futures told by Peter Cushing.

I've heard it said that O'Gorman is good at drawing people out, at putting them at ease and encouraging them to open up. I'm more inclined to think that the intensity of his gaze is so unnerving that people just start babbling and confessing. Particularly when they're trapped on a slow-moving train (to heaven) with no means of escape.

Speaking of blankly intense gazes, Daniel O'Donnell was the subject of some unexpectedly feverish attention on the series finale of Martin and Paul's Surf 'n' Turf.

If you haven't seen the show, it follows chefs Martin Shanahan and Paul Flynn as they ramble about the country, competing for local approval. Martin likes fish, Paul loves meat, together they're murder! Or, at least, they're supposed to be, but the painfully strained "buddy movie" dynamic falls utterly flat.

In Wednesday's episode they were in Donegal, where Paul became obsessed with tracking down wee Daniel and making him his meat- preparing assistant. Paul found himself outside the gates of the O'Donnell residence, peering anxiously in. No sign.

A tip-off then led him to a harbour where Daniel's wife was disembarking from a boat. But where was Daniel? "He's actually away learning the Irish," she said, "in Glencolmcille." "Nooooooo!," Paul all but screamed, as he leapt hysterically into his car. "Glencolmcille is an hour-and-a-half away!", he breathlessly informed us. "Daniel is due to leave his Irish class in an hour. Now that's pressure." It wasn't really.


Anyway, Paul's prey was eventually intercepted, the meat was cooked, and Daniel, like a benign cult leader, led the assembled acolytes in a chorus of The Homes of Donegal. Martin and Paul? They got naked and disappeared into the sea (a sight I shan't soon forget).

On Monday's Who Do You Think You Are? USA the wonderful Edie Falco ended up on a tall ship off the coast of Cornwall, after tracing her mother's family back to a Cornish master mariner.

The show may, essentially, be a heavily-edited, hour-long advertisement for ancestry.com, but it's still got its golden moments. Chief among which are those scenes where wide-eyed archivists and librarians meet famous celebs and try to affect nonchalance (as if this is just another day in the sexy life of a genealogist).

'Wait 'til I tell my mum,' you can practically see them thinking.


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