TV & Radio

No slim pickings on the small screen

The presenters of Sunday Morning Live, Emma Barneet and Sean Fletcher. 

The summer used to be regarded as the silly season for current affairs, but I don’t think that holds true anymore.

Sunday Morning Live, back on BBC 1 on Sunday mornings, has no shortage of topical religious and ethical issues to cover. Last weekend’s episode started with an illuminating discussion prompted by the recent attack on Muslims outside a mosque in London. 

Prof. Ben Carrington suggested that far-right extremism was nothing new and didn’t like people denying the existence of Islamophobia. Journalist Ruth Dudley Edwards was impressed by British tolerance. She criticised the media for “concurring in covering up discussion” and thought that to say terror episodes related to Islamist extremism had nothing to do with Islam was “rubbish”. 

Tom Slater of Spiked Online thought there wasn’t a strong far-right threat and that, in fact, the far-right was “in terminal decline”. He was uneasy about verbal abuse being conflated with violent attacks under the hate crime category. Comedian and writer Shaista Aziz thought there was an increase in hate crime and she was concerned about inflammatory coverage in the media.

Later there was coverage of a bizarre solstice event in the Shard in London – a sort of alcohol free disco featuring sun welcoming, group hugs, gong meditation, flowers and glitter, and the honouring of the four directions. Quote: “Without north, south, east and west we don’t exist!”

Experience

A discussion on the report ‘Abuse of Faith’, about child abuse and related cover up in the Church of England rather uncomfortably echoed our own experience, but there were indications that effective child protection measures were now in place. But strangely enough the concept of child protection didn’t get a mention in the later discussion on abortion, prompted by the British Medical Association discussion on increasing term limits, even to due date, for any reason. 

Comedian and writer Kate Smurthwaite, despite not being ‘comfortable’ with late abortions was entirely pro-choice, while Catholic commentator Caroline Farrow stressed the humanity of the unborn baby and usefully pointed out that the majority of women in a recent ComRes survey thought that the current limits were too high. Importantly, she also got to mention recently revealed abuses in abortion clinics. Ruth Dudley Edwards said she hated everything about abortion but wouldn’t insist on her view prevailing in cases like rape. 

However she thought that a “viable baby” should never be aborted, that this was “atrocious’ and she could see no difference between that and murder.

The otherwise intelligent Ben Carrington made a peculiar point – he assumed everyone was against abortion in the same way that everyone was against heart attacks!  (A small matter of choice there professor!)

I must return yet again to the drama series Broken(BBC 1, Tuesday nights). I wrote very positively about the first two episodes, but I’m less enthusiastic after episodes three and four. Episode four felt more like a crime drama and featured an uncharacteristic rant by Fr Michael against the Church’s treatment of women and its teaching on women priests. This felt like a wad of someone’s agenda crammed uncomfortably into the character’s mouth, ideology trumping art.

Last week’s episode, focusing on a suicidal gambler, was quite disturbing. Touchingly Fr Michael tried to persuade this woman of God’s love for her, but it was a tough challenge.

She was portrayed sympathetically at times, presented in part at least as a victim of gambling addiction, yet she was proud in the worst sense, not particularly sorry about her wrongdoing (including large scale theft from her employer) and unwilling to face the shame of being found out, of people knowing what she had done. 

She was careless of the pain she might cause to others and at one stage made a very crude suggestion to the priest as he tried to help her. Another problem was the way Fr Michael, in his efforts to save her, treated the seal of Confession, and the way he tried to rationalise his actions.  Nevertheless the episode was absorbing and brilliantly acted, especially by Sean Bean as Fr Michael and Paula Malcomson as Roz, the woman in question.

Finally, on Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1) last Monday there was an item on First Communions – though not on the spiritual aspects. It seems a survey has shown that parents on average spend around €800 on the celebrations, while the young communicants rake in about €500. Something amiss somewhere!