BY LIAM O COILEAIN
Fadó fadó nuair a bhí mé óg, RTÉ had a thriving current affairs and news team. In 1984 the late Father Joe Dunn and his Radharc team risked their lives to bring back powerful evidence of the Guatemalan military dictatorship's campaign of genocide against the Mayan people.
Where the Pope is a Communist and the Bishop is a Guerrilla(RTE 1, Monday, 2 September) was narrated by Olivia O'Leary when full-blooded campaigning journalism was still allowed. The tone was one of outrage at the injustices exposed. One of the most illuminating aspects of the programme was how the Guatemalan rulers had demonised the Catholic Church because of the clergy's emphasis on Liberation Theology. Along with other justice campaigners, priests and Cathecists fell victim to US-trained death squads. This period also marked the initial influx of right-wing American fundamentalist sects to Central America, another US-led attempt to undermine progressive elements in the region and the Catholic Church. Ironically, the same church which was now one of the only voices raised against the regime's actions itself arrived as a colonising alien force with the Spanish Conquistadores to oust, at swordpoint, the native Mayan religion and culture.
Although 12-years old, this documentary was still gripping and an example of the kind of work which licence payers should be able to expect from their national station. The selected repeat showings of vintage Radharc investigations has served its function well in exposing the craft and compassion of the late Joe Dunn, the driving force behind the series.
Our office is fairly evenly divided between those who grew up with brothers and sisters and only children. Being of the former category I can't help feeling that the latter bunch missed out but that is, of course, a very subjective opinion. Picture This: Who Do I Love the Most? (BBC 2, Tuesday, 3 September, 8pm) was an engaging programme in which siblings discussed their relationships with each other and with their parents. All those childhood insecurities which we carry through to adulthood were there, the need for attention, recognition and affection. I remember being typically vigilant against any display of favouritism in my family, except of course when I was the beneficiary.
Thankfully, most siblings, despite the fierce battles they fight growing up, end up fairly well disposed towards each other as adults. The older you get the more you appreciate where each was on the ladder and how that dictated your childhood relationship. Older children blaze trails of parental consent and then feel aggrieved when the rest stroll through without the same struggles while younger siblings are constantly trying to escape from the shadow of those who have gone before. At the end of the day the truth is in the old cliché - you can change your friends, but you can't change your family.
Little Killers: Killer Mouse(Channel 4, Monday, 2 September, 8pm) was no sedate nature programme. The subject was a psycho rodent known as the Grasshopper Mouse, a native of the inhospitable Sonoran Desert in New Mexico. The tiny creature is unlike any mouse you've ever met. A feasome predator, it feeds on grasshoppers, tarantulas, scorpions and more mild mannered rodents up to three times its size. Despite the dangers posed by some of its prey it is fearless. Stephen Speilberg would get a great horror film out of this tiny killer. It even stands on its hind legs and howls like a wolf. Expert camera work gave us a ringside seat in its burrow for two life or death struggles, the first when it cooly outwitted a snake in search of lunch, the second when a badger proved that eventually weight advantage does count, even if a mouse is a paltry snack. Pound-for-pound though, the rodent would win hands down, although the question was academic after the badger bout as it was an ex-rodent.
I've often thought about devoting an entire column to adverts, because we probably watch more ads on the telly than anything else. Everybody has pet hates and firm favourites. I love the Rolo ad where the elephant clocks yer man because he wouldn't give him a sweet when he was a kid. I also love the Kit Kat ad where the culchie garda with the speed-gun auditions for a Clint Eastwood movie. What I hate are those insipid panty-liner ads, washing-powder commercials and that irritating one with the fat English guy who buys Bran Flakes to get fit.
After the Break(BBC 1, Tuesdays, 9.30pm) is the Beeb's attempt to introduce Six-County comic Patrick Kielty to a network audience. Rather than let him loose PK Tonight-style, he presents a selection of adverts from around the world which he finds amusing. These are interspersed with short bursts of his stand-up routine. The show is a safe format tried and tested by Denis Norden and Clive James over the years. Having enjoyed Kielty's last show, as he tore acid-lined strips off everyone, especially Big Ian and our own Martin McGuinness, this was sorry fare. Poor Paddy has been neutered to fit. Hopefully he will be a hit and soon dictate his own terms. He's too talented to become another Danny Baker (he of the awful Daz ads), no matter how good the money is.