Remote Control - Saturday March 28, 2015
Whenever Sir Trevor McDonald takes to the screen, sadly less frequently these days, you can hear the moans from news readers everywhere.
He may have stopped being a regular visitor to our living rooms but whenever he pops up for one of his well polished documentaries it serves as a reminder that none of his successors can hold a candle to the Don of anchormen. It is appropriate then his latest project is The Mafia With Trevor McDonald (ITV, Monday 9pm), a slick, big budget production shot over many months.
Like everything the world’s coolest 75-year-old gets involved with, the first of two shows taking a guided tour of the American Mafia was a hit with the millions who tuned in. Technically speaking it was one of the best made documentaries broadcast on terrestrial television for quite some time.
To be fair, it had everything going for it – a dream subject and access to some of the men who have risked their lives by betraying the Cosa Nostra’s much vaunted code of silence. The main players all played crucial roles in the world’s most feared organised crime network and have fantastic stories, so why was it I felt ever so slightly short changed? There were interviews with dead-eyed men with terrifying names like Mikey Scars and John Alite but was there any fresh insight? Had we not heard much of this before through court cases and endless books and newspapers articles on a criminal dynasty which has fascinated and terrified in equal measure for many years.
The most interesting aspect was it gave context to just how much money the Mob earns from ill-deeds – one well groomed ex-con, Michael Franseze claims he was earning $10m a week in his heyday as the Mafia’s financial whizz kid.
Now he is a Christian preacher who charges thousands of dollars per public appearance while self confessed killer Alite is a motivational speaker, which slightly dented the illusion this documentary brought something new to the table.
The interview with Scars, who says he spends his life looking over his shoulder after he gave evidence against his former employees, was a bit too polished, including the scene when he drove Sir Trev though his former manor of Little Italy. He seemed a bit too relaxed for a man back in the lion’s den who has a price on his head.