Savage Eye returns

FOR a long time David McSavage looked as if he didn’t have what it takes to make it in the comedy world.

For one thing, he lacked that fundamental qualification needed for a comic: the ability to be funny. Add that to an uncanny ability to irritate people, and you’d be suggesting that the man christened David Andrews Jr should have followed his brother Barry and his father David into Fianna Fáil.

But then the young buck’s redemption came in the first series of The Savage Eye (Monday, RTÉ Two, 9.50pm). While his street performances and stand-up shows were well worth missing, his TV show was essential viewing. McSavage really ‘got’ the medium. His sketches — directed by Kieron Walsh and Damien O’Donnell — provided plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some of the best satire we’ve had in Ireland since the demise of Scrap Saturday.

Several of the original characters survive for another season (President for Life, the Bull Mick and the child-snatching priest) as McSavage has a cut off such topics as health, tourism and racism over the next six weeks.

Meanwhile, the BBC launches its big-budget natural history series this week, and for all its wonderful inclusions, Human Planet (Thursday, BBC One, 9pm) is probably notable for the thing that’s missing — David Attenborough’s voice. With the doyen of natural history broadcasting hitting 85 this year, it is probably time that the Beeb tried out some new narrators. Step into the breach Mr John Hurt, a sprightly 70-year-old.

The focus of this eight-part series is on human interaction with the natural world. First up is Oceans: Into The Blue, where Hurt’s distinctive tones will be heard over some truly spectacular footage. For instance, in Indonesia, we follow subsistence whalers heading out in rickety wooden boats to try to capture a mighty sperm whale using bamboo harpoons.

As is the norm with such shows, some of the most interesting material comes in the behind-the-scenes segment. This week, we see how a nine-man crew captured the images of about 100 Palawan fishermen in the Philippines as they worked together under the water. Breath-taking stuff indeed.

For something a bit closer to home, Dan Breen — My Fight for Irish Freedom (Wednesday, TG4, 9.30pm) is the first of a new three-part series looking at the actions of three of the celebrated figures in the War of Independence.

Tipperary man Breen is remembered as one of those who took part in the first attack of the war, the killing of two policemen at Soloheadbeg in January 1919. After independence, he served as a TD and also spent some time running a speakeasy in the US during the Prohibition era. For this show, however, the focus is on his time as a guerrilla in his autobiography My Fight For Irish Freedom. Future episodes will look at Tom Barry and Ernie O’Malley.

Finally, as sure as resolutions and longer days, the new year inevitably brings a new series of Shameless (Monday-Friday, Channel 4, 10pm).

This eighth season kicks off with five shows over the next six days, before reverting to its normal appearance of once a week.

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