Dublin Airport: Life Stories & The Luas: A Tale of Two Trams

Posted: July 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

airport

Airports are boring. In the best case scenario you catch your flight after a seemingly interminable period spent queuing and being herded through various screenings and checkpoints where the possession of the wrong amount of shaving gell earns you the same level of suspicion as one of Al-Qaeda’s finest. Airports are the departing countries way of saying: “You might be going on a sun-kissed two week holiday to some exotic location, but we’re going to make damn sure you’re miserable by the time you get there.”

Airports are a vortex of fun, a gathering point for the bored and the irritated. But clearly TV3 thought such a Godawful setting would make for quality TV when they came up with the idea for Dublin Airport: Life Stories. They were wrong. So very, very wrong.

Fronted by the same generic breezy blonde all such ‘documentaries’ wheel out, this was TV at its most lazy, stultifying and soporific worst. Interspersing the stories of three families and tail-ending the programme with footage of the Airport fire brigade carrying out a routine training drill, this half hour of telly felt every bit as tortuous as the wait for luggage that has forever been lost.

The subjects were an elderly American man bidding farewell to his daughter; a young Irish family returning to their new home in Uganda (who provided the highlight of the episode by simply missing their flight) and a Dutch man waiting for a sister he hadn’t seen for….. three whole months. That none of them were even remotely interesting was not their fault – they are not performers, they are regular passengers. The blame lay squarely with the sadistic TV3 suit who decided to administer this TV anaesthetic upon an unsuspecting nation.

If the show was going to work at all, it required an engaging, attention-grabbing host, someone like a Hector Ó hEochagáin before he became tiresome. Instead we got charisma-free Andrea Hayes, asking questions like: “And what is it about your sister that makes her so special?” The search goes on for Jeremy Paxman’s successor.

Watching Hayes flap and grin her way through thirty mind-numbing minutes made one wonder what exactly it is about the medium of TV that makes so many young people effectively prostitute themselves to appear on its screens? It’s hard to believe Hayes’ full skill set amounts to this display of awkward guffaws and forced laughs. For all we know she could be the proud owner of a PHD in astrophysics but we were never likely to see any evidence of intelligence in such a staid and unimaginative format. Perhaps conventional prostitution would have been a better career move; at least that would have made a handful of people happy – which is a handful more than Dublin Airport: Life Stories probably managed.

Not that TV3 were the only channel suffering from the misguided notion that a formula of public transport and interviews with the public equalled quality TV. On Rte we had The Luas: A Tale of Two Trams, which was every bit as exciting as the title suggests. Although a considerable improvement on Life Stories, this was nonetheless an opportunity missed by the state broadcaster. Clearly unsure of whether they wanted to make a light-hearted, feel good programme about Dublin’s newest mode of public transport, or dig deep into some of the Luas’ associated societal problems such as racism, social disorder and the disparity between the haves of the affluent (South city) Green line and the have-nots of the working class (West City) Red line, the programme-makers ended up doing neither. Instead we got footage of Luas drivers standing around, waiting for a One Direction concert to finish (accompanied by dramatic soundtrack) followed by a Nigerian ticket inspector reciting some of the hate-filled, racist terms he has to absorb on a daily basis. Think of a Bernard Manning routine set to a Benny Hill soundtrack.

With over 100 incidents of unsocial behaviour reported each month on the Luas – many of them related to racism – clearly this was where the producers should have steered the programme. Instead they shied away from the matter, as they also did from the issue of fare-evaders and the impotency of the inspectors tasked with stopping them. It seems extraordinary, for example, that we can have a Garda presence for such menial jobs as passport checks at Dublin airport yet none on our trams where elements of society are free to punch, kick, spit and unleash their bigoted venom at will – and all without even paying for a ticket.

Had The Luas: A Tale of Two Trams explored some of these meatier issues instead of following a group of teenage girls on their daily pilgrimage to Dundrum Shopping Centre, the programme could have served as a valuable tool in addressing some of the more unsavoury aspects of modern, multicultural Ireland. Instead, by cowering into inconsequential TV fluff it did as great a disservice to the victims of the vile abuse as the Neanderthal lowlifes delivering the insults.

Perhaps there is worthwhile TV to be mined from transport and travel but in Dublin Airport: Life Stories and The Luas: A Tale of Two Trams both TV3 and Rte failed to take a shot, much less hit the target. Instead both programmes seemed to be united in their mistaken belief that simply identifying a public setting and sticking a microphone in front of the great unwashed was all they needed to ensure entertaining television. They were very much mistaken and merely proved that transport isn’t just a vehicle for passengers but also regrettable TV.

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