Tuesday 23 April 2019

Kids running riot makes for great TV


THERE is nothing that signals the official start of summer more potently than the sight of this (R) next to a programme in the TV listings pages.

It's the repeat symbol, television's way of belching loudly in your face before popping on its sunglasses and declaring: "Right, I'm off for me holliers. I've left some James Bond movies in the oven and the 1997 series of A Touch of Frost in the freezer. Have fun! See you in the autumn."

Get used to those (R)s because we're going to be seeing a lot more of them as television tightens its diamond-encrusted belt. Still, I'd much rather have a repeat of the marvellous Outnumbered on a Friday night than the series it replaces, the dismal Reggie Perrin.

It's only right that Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin's cracking comedy should be granted a second primetime run, given the way the BBC originally bungled its promotion by jamming the entire first series into six late-night slots spread over a fortnight.

Last night's episode, the first of the second series, saw the Brockmans (Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis) and their three children attend a family wedding. If you've ever seen Outnumbered (and not nearly enough people have), you'll know that this is tantamount to a herd of elephants charging across a minefield.

The Brockmans are parents to the most spectacularly indiscreet children. While frighteningly precocious five-year-old Karen (Ramona Marquez) almost derails the day by tactlessly telling the bride-to-be, a cousin, exactly what Mummy thinks of her wedding dress ("It made her giggle") and previous boyfriends, seven-year-old Ben (Daniel Roche) challenges the vicar with such searching theological questions as "If God loved Jesus so much, why did he kill him?".

The genius of Outnumbered lies not just in the pin-sharp observations but also in the wonderfully naturalistic performances of the kids, who are allowed to improvise much of their dialogue.

A repeat is only a repeat if you haven't seen it before. I missed UEFA sa Ghaeltacht three years ago, which simply served to double the viewing pleasure.

This was a splendid little documentary that recalled the memorable occasion in 1986 when Galway United played host to top Dutch side FC Groningen in the UEFA Cup. Groningen, whose squad boasted the Koeman brothers, Erwin and Ronald, Arjen Robben and Peter Houtman (that season's Golden Boot winner), hammered Galway 5-1 in the first leg in Holland. When UEFA decided the pitch at Galway's Terryland Park ground wasn't up to scratch for the second leg, the match was played on a windswept community pitch in An Ceathru Rua with no stands and no floodlights.

It was a bizarre occasion but -- despite the sneering of the Dublin-centric football writers -- one that seems to have stuck in the affections of the Dutch players involved. "I don't know how to explain it," said Peter Houtman. "It was something very special." Galway United lost 8-2 on aggregate. You can't have everything.

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