Matt Baylis on last night’s TV: Too bogged down by fear | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV

Matt Baylis on last night’s TV: Too bogged down by fear | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV


More to the point, it became obvious by about the first furlong, let alone the final ones, that film-maker Alison Millar was less interested in the bones of a racehorse that vanished in 1983 and more in the people affected.

Despite the grim nature of the story, she managed to turn this into something playful and imaginative without ever taking the mickey.

The film began in a patch of bog in County Leitrim, whose Gaelic name translates as “Meadow of the Fairies” and the story as a whole was populated by gnome-like little old men with a tale to tell, along with the sense that something wicked out there would always keep the truth from being told.

From the man who’d fitted the Aga Khan’s champion racehorse with his first pair of shoes to top vet Stan Cosgrove who’d tended to him, it was clear Shergar had been more than a cash cow to some.

Cosgrove’s lengthy refusal to discuss the case (ended, it must be added by the authentic approach of Alison Millar) seemed less about a fear of being woken up by men in masks and more about a deep sorrow.

At the same time, Millar’s retelling didn’t overlook the Ealing comedy elements. At one point, after Shergar had been taken in the dead of night in February 1983, a terrified trio of racing journalists was summoned to a meeting with IRA men in a Belfast hotel.

As the story dragged on without result, attention focused on the whimsical charms of the lead detective, Chief Superintendent James Murphy, who popped up smiling in his trilby every morning to say there had been no progress.

In the background, demands for cash came and went and then mysteriously stopped altogether. A pair of clairvoyants called Bob and Eileen said they’d experienced a vision of the horse in a ruined abbey.

Despairing of getting any new material for the six o’clock bulletin, a BBC crew resorted to asking a group of travellers what they thought and they obliged, muttering darkly over a campfire about places a horse could be hidden.

It seems the travellers were spot on, and whether they’re in that Leitrim bog or not, Shergar’s remains will stay in some kind of Meadow of the Fairies forever.

My Family and the Galapagos (Saturday, C4) nearly ended at the airport as marine biologist Monty Halls and family had their suitcases combed by Ecuadorian customs officials.

A fragment of straw is held aloft and confiscated because any weevils on it could do lasting harm to the islands’ ecosystem.

With 30 flights bringing visitors to the islands every week, you wondered if this was finger-in-the-dyke stuff but then again, how could they not try?

I’m sure Monty wanted to bring his family with him as he fights to preserve the Galapagos and I’m sure they wanted to come. At the same time, showing us the place through the eyes of Monty’s two, wonderstruck little girls was something of a masterstroke.

You couldn’t help but share their delight at the sea lions dozing on benches in the town square and the centuries-old tortoises plodding through the bushes.

My hard and fast rule about kids saying cute things was broken by Isla’s line about ocean pollution. “It’s destinking all the turtles.”



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