TV review: Diane fights the good fight while Oscar still has talent to amuse

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TV review: Diane fights the good fight while Oscar still has talent to amuse

 


Going Wilde: Nicholas Rowe in the BBC2 documentary, The Importance of Being Oscar
Going Wilde: Nicholas Rowe in the BBC2 documentary, The Importance of Being Oscar

The third season of The Good Fight (RTÉ1) began this week with hotshot Chicago lawyer Diane suspecting that hubby Kurt was having an affair, but it turned out to be much worse and a lot more shameful than that.

The blonde hairs she had discovered on his sweater after he returned from a shooting expedition belonged, not to some mysterious woman, but to one of Donald Trump’s sons, who had borrowed the jumper while out slaughtering wildlife. The Trump-hating Diane was aghast.

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Meanwhile, the mainly black law firm for which she now works had just discovered that their late founder, a close friend of Martin Luther King, had been sexually assaulting female members of his staff for decades. “If this goes public, we’re suddenly Weinstein”, a senior partner warned as they wondered whether to enforce non-disclosure agreements or take it on the chin.

The Good Fight is a spin-off from The Good Wife, which ran for 156 episodes from 2009 to 2016. That was a smart and involving series, but The Good Fight seems to me even better, not least because Christine Baranski’s Diane has moved from being sidekick to taking centre stage, a role that Baranski commandingly inhabits, her withering looks tempered by her natural decency.

The supporting cast – Delroy Lindo, Rose Leslie, Cush Jumbo – are excellent, too, while the writing has become notably sharper in its treatment of an America that’s very different and more alarming than the one Diane and her colleagues lived in during the reign of Obama.

In a mostly lacklustre television week, The Good Fight provided the most lively and dramatically engrossing hour, though the 90-minute documentary, The Importance of Being Oscar (BBC2), was impressive, too.

This took the form of a biography, with lots of talking heads on hand to further the narrative and provide insights, but with lots of extracts from Wilde’s plays, too, enacted impressively by Anna Chancellor, Claire Skinner, Nicholas Rowe and other luminaries of stage and screen.

Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, had much to say that was both sensible and interesting and had “no doubt” that, despite Oscar’s homosexual life, he was in love with Constance and that their marriage was not “a smokescreen” for other activities.

Frank McGuinness chose to focus on Wilde’s artistic genius, celebrating The Importance of Being Earnest because “it loves the English language” and is “perfect” in a way that not even the greatest of Shakespeare plays manage to be. Stephen Fry, Jerusha McCormack and Matthew Sturgis were other notable contributors to an absorbing film.

Meanwhile, another sainted Irishman featured in Two Lukes (RTÉ1), which related how Dublin City Council got cold feet about the enormous head of Luke Kelly that had been created by Vera Klute and thus commissioned a more conventional statue by sculptor John Coll as well.

Fellow member of The Dubliners, John Sheahan, wondered what Luke would think about it all. “I’d say he’d probably dismiss it and say they’ve little to be doing, doing a statue of me.”

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And Klute’s gigantic decapitated head caused some consternation when it was first shown to the Kelly family, brother John deeming it to be “out of proportion”, Luke’s friend Des Geraghty thinking it looked like a “death mask”, and Dublin City Council public arts manager Ruairí Ó Cuív cautioning that “a sculpture isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life”.

Hence the second commission and hence Dublin City Council’s blithe decision to allow both to be erected – the Klute in Sheriff Street and the Coll in South King Street, and the unveiling honours performed on the same day by President Michael D Higgins.

For myself, and for what it’s worth, if there are to be two commemorative statues of Luke Kelly in Dublin there should be 10 of Ronnie Drew, the greatest of all The Dubliners, and maybe of all Dubliners. Heresy, I know, but there you have it.

In this week’s At Your Service (RTÉ1), the Brennan brothers were camping it up in Kilfenora: dancing jigs in a bar, sleeping in a hostel’s bunk beds, painting outside walls and other such codology. Are they not taking this gig, now in its 10th season, with the seriousness it supposedly deserves?

Actually, this was a peculiarly dispiriting episode, with neither of the brothers happy about the degree of enthusiasm shown by siblings Orla and Mark in fulfilling their allotted tasks. Apparently there were financial problems, while the “vibe” between the siblings had seemingly become problematic, but the viewer wasn’t told how or why.

That, though, is not new in this series, viewers being usually left in the dark about the fate of these makeover enterprises.

Are most of them even still in business? It would be interesting to know, though that might tarnish the feel-good factor that’s so essential to the Brennan brand.

The six-episode Quicksand (Netflix) begins arrestingly with the aftermath of a classroom shooting in which the only survivor appears to be blood-spattered 18-year-old Maja, who’s promptly arrested for mass murder.

So did she do it? Well, this Stockholm-set Swedish thriller unfolds in flashbacks and as I’ve only watched the first episode, I haven’t a clue, but it’s artfully constructed and has a striking lead performance from Hanna Ardéhn as Maja, so it might well be worth your time and mine.

And you should catch Brexit: The Clock is Ticking on RTÉ Player. This follows chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his team as they try to deal with Theresa May and her Tory headbangers. It’s full of intriguing and amusing moments.

Indo Review

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