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Friday 15 December 2017

You've started, now just finish

celebrity mastermind (tv3, sunday) true love (bbc1, sunday)

Celebrity, like strong drink and exclamation marks, is something that should be used, if it has to be used at all, sparingly.

It should probably surprise no one that when TV3 decided to adapt the venerable BBC quiz show Mastermind, which has been running, with the occasional interruption (most notably following the death of its original host, Magnus Magnusson), since 1972, it would opt for the celebrity version rather than the vanilla variety.

The decision is ruinous, reducing brilliant, bullet-proof television to something closer in nature to TV3's ill-fated The Box. Capably hosted by former politician Nora Owen, Celebrity Mastermind features all the familiar trademarks: the ominous theme music (which as actually called Approaching Menace), the intimidating black leather chair, the darkened studio and the famous catchphrase, "I've started, so I'll finish."

In ever other respect, though, it's a travesty. Lining up last night in the first of six programmes were veteran sports commentator Jimmy Magee, ubiquitous broadcaster Anton Savage (the eventual winner), former Miss Ireland Holly Carpenter and tailor Louis Copeland, who wore his measuring tape throughout.

Magee and Savage's specialist subjects were predictably arcane: respectively, 50 years of All-Ireland football finals and racing car design, preparation and driving. Carpenter went for the life and times of Vincent Van Gogh, while Copeland opted for The Beatles. Carpenter, an art student, scored six points in the specialist round. Savage racked up eight, while Magee and Copeland tied on nine. So far, so middling. But then came the general knowledge round.

The original Mastermind was famed for its toughness. Its creator, Bill Wright, based the format on his experiences of being interrogated by the Gestapo and the questions took no prisoners. While the questions on the BBC's Celebrity Mastermind tend to be a little easier, the general knowledge round on TV3's version is so embarrassingly easy it would disgrace a primary schools quiz. With eight question-setters on board, you'd imagine one of them could up with something a little more challenging than: "In which country are the policemen on horseback called Mounties?", or "Mark Zuckerberg founded which popular social media website?", or "Which Irish boy band announced its break-up in 2011?"

And since we've mentioned the question-setters, the very least you'd expect from a quiz show is that the questions be accurately informed. For the record, The Beatles' movies A Hard Day's Night and Help! were certainly NOT "documentary-style" films, nor were both of them "black-and-white". Help! was in glorious colour. Do I get a point for that?

Most television dramas are too long. At just 30 minutes apiece, the five stand-alone yet interlinked dramas in writer/director Dominic Savage's series True Love, which is running on consecutive nights, would seem, on paper, to be a tad on the short side.

Until about 15 minutes into the first one, entitled 'Nick', when you started looking impatiently at your watch. David Tennant played the title character, a thirtysomething whose relationship with his wife Ruth (Jane Froggat) and their two lovely children is idyllic -- until old flame Serena (Vicky McClure) 17 years after dumping him without warning and emigrating to Canada.

They meet, part, meet again, arrange a couple of assignations, kiss on Margate's pier, stare wistfully into sunsets and longingly at one another, and then part one last time -- Brief Encounter-style, at a train station -- while Roberta Flack and Billie Holiday sing on the soundtrack. And that's it.

It's nice to look at, well-acted, but also thin, dull and inconsequential. Savage apparently gave the actors a rough outline and urged them to improvise; the result was some of the worst, most cliched dialogue I've ever heard.

True love? True awful.



celebrity mastermind HIIII true love HIIII

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