TV Viewpoint: High Road, Low Road and Frank of Ireland

Memories of times past are raised when two celebs hit the High Road

“WHO came up with this show?” asks one of the Fair City actors taking part in High Road, Low Road, a travel programme that recruits two well known Irish faces to take a punt on a holiday. The catch is, one of them gets a luxury experience while the other endures the budget option.

You can probably guess which of the two asked the tell-tale question regarding programme commissioning, but I was left wondering who made the decision to broadcast the show in the midst of a flight-grounding pandemic?

Fun by the meat stand in Athens

The pair weren’t to know their destination before showing up at the airport, and seeing them look at the departure screen guessing at which country they could be potentially taking off for brought to mind the €1 holidays taken by Celtic Tiger cubs, organised by their Ents officer in their first year of college.

Even from the other side of that undeniably privileged madness, seeing the screen refresh, the unfettered joy of being in an airport, the utter every-dayness about the whole thing definitely stung a little.

Destination revealed, off the two popped to Athens, with George McMahon picking the lucky envelope that contained the luxury option, and on-screen girlfriend Nyree Yergainharsain left with the budget choice.

George was swept away by a limo to a stay in the Presidential Suite of a 5-star hotel, while Nyree was left to fend for herself by finding a bus into the city to take her to a hostel, which turned out to be spotlessly clean, pleasantly decorated and slap bang in the middle of a desirable part of town.

Well let me tell you, even though it doesn’t look like I’ll be making it overseas on a jolly old jaunt for the foreseeable future, I have added Athens to my list. Its history alone is obviously quite the draw, but what sold it to me was the abundance of food and wine, pleasant and helpful citizens and the relaxed vibe.

High Road, Low Road didn’t do a bad job in showcasing how far your budget can go, and Nyree’s experience would most certainly be more like what I would be in for; many’s the airport bus has been taken to a hotel or hostel drop-off point, and long afternoons have been generously spent wandering off the beaten track to find hidden gems.

George’s accommodation cost in the thousands per night, and he was more or less shuttled from yacht to fancy restaurant to bar selling €30,000 bottles of whiskey.

Pretty unlike any holiday the average viewer will make, but also eye opening as to what is within your reach if you were to throw your hands up and splurge, just for the sake of it.

On discussing their experiences at the end of their trip, both Nyree and George agreed that a mixture of opulence and standard local flavour, a good holiday makes.

The first thing I thought when I saw Frank of Ireland listed in the TV Guide was, is this a play on… Bank of Ireland? And if so, why? Why?

The first thing I thought after I’d finished the first episode (which started on Channel 4 last Thursday), was, why, why, WHY the hell was it ever aired?

Conceived and starring Brian Gleeson and his (Hollywood star) brother Domhnall, Frank of Ireland is about the titular Frank, a hapless and arrogant musician and the people in his life.

Domhnall is his sidekick, the annoyingly named Doofus, and recognisable faces like Sarah Greene and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor make appearances.

There’s an off-kilter, almost surreal aspect to the set-up that requires the audience to suspend its disbelief at the antics that would not be tolerated in normal society, such as dispatching belongings nonchalantly on an open coffin, or disrupting a funeral to belt out an inappropriate self-penned song.

Brian Gleeson in Frank of Ireland

It’s supposed to be over the top, of course, silly and intentionally offensive, but unfortunately it has resulted less in the Fr. Ted school, and more amateur film made by Transition Year students with a budget supplied by a wealthy, indulgent parent trying to connect with their weird, “arty” offspring.

It’s full to the brim of intensively vulgar toilet humour, and is of the opinion that people in middle age being open minded, sexually liberated and prone to swearing is hilarious enough to be the joke.

The character of Frank is supposed to be abhorrent, and he is, with Brian Gleeson leaning in to the misanthropic role with palpable relish.

The saving grace of Frank of Ireland is the Gleeson brothers (who are, to take points away from them, also responsible for the script). They both display excellent comic timing, and deliver their parts well, even managing to raise a titter or two from me, despite my overall overwhelming distaste for the endeavour.

Not big, clever or remotely amusing, I don’t think Frank of Ireland will appeal to anyone but the most devoted Gleeson fan (of which there are many, because they’re such nice lads!). Even then, they’ll be offering up their excuses for the sub-par humour. To be avoided if you want to keep the faith.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 21 04 21

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