RTÉ proves imitation isn’t always the best form of flatterySeptember 25, 2012 - 7:00am
Perhaps it’s time the commissioning department of RTÉ resorted to something more than the Radio Times for their ideas – because while imitation may well be the best form of flattery, when your effort pales by comparison, its shortcomings tend to be obvious in an even harsher light.
Take The Secret Millionaire, which is addictive viewing on Channel 4 – probably because they invest the production time and research in it and maybe because they have greater scope to probe their economic and/or social deprivation.
The concept is a simple one and, at its best, a tear-jerker as some wealthy individual with a heart – or a hard individual who undergoes a Scrooge-like conversion – goes undercover to visit poor areas and meet volunteers who give their all to make life better in even the toughest of circumstances.
They pretend to be retraining as social workers or participating in some employment scheme, and the poor people seem content to swallow that despite the presence of a television camera crew following their every move.
And then they play God with their own money by deciding which of these deserving causes they will write out a five figure cheque for, while at the same time revealing their true identity and the extent of their accumulated wealth.
It might sound mawkish in the cold light of print, but this can be heart-warming on two fronts – the fact that a millionaire is willing to take time out to see the other side of life, and then that he or she encounters those people with sufficient pride in even the worst communities to give their all to make it better.
If you’re lucky, as a viewer, you might also get some insight into the reality of life on the wrong side of the tracks – without leaving your own sitting room.
RTÉ’s version, on the other hand, is well intentioned but sort of contrived, in that you’re unlikely to find the problems you’re looking for simply by wandering around a housing estate under cover of darkness.
Last week’s version, in fairness, relied on a really good source of information – they found most of what they appeared to be looking for in the pages of this very newspaper.
In this case the Secret Millionaire was Ramona Nicholas who made her money through her Cara Pharmacies chain, but who left her picture-perfect family behind in Donegal to spend eight days in and around the streets of Galway.
For more, read this week's Connacht Sentinel.