The poetry of Yeats. The chicken fillet roll. Maniac 2000. The films of Lenny Abrahamson. All towering Irish artistic achievements, but there is one Irish cultural institution that tops them all.
Reeling In The Years was and remains a staple of a Bank Holiday Weekend and a chance to reminisce with the older relatives in your life about history and culture, RTE have yet to top the show they first started showing in 1999.
Picking a favourite episode is tough, but we like to think we narrowed it down. Let us know in the comments if we missed your favourite!
Topics tackled in the 2002 episode were truly globetrotting and varied, from a story of two Keanes in Japan, a war in Afghanistan, all the way to a certain Derry pop star being caught out about her age on national television.
Music is an intrinsic part of what makes Reeling In The Years so special, and this episode is no exception.
Ireland’s 2002 World Cup campaign being sound-tracked to ‘Complicated’ by Avril Lavigne captures the spirit of the Roy Keane/Mick McCarthy scandal perfectly, while Kylie Minogue soundtracks the 2002 general election, reflecting how the biggest controversy on the campaign trial that year was a custard pie in the face for then Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan.
A rule of thumb with Reeling In The Years is if a lot of time is spent exploring the pop culture of the year, then it’s a fairly light episode, and a recap of RTE’s Treasure Island, the rise of Six and Daniel O’Donnell’s wedding makes this episode a treat for pop culture fans.
Reeling In The Years never messes around. It always starts its episode smack bang in the middle of the action and kicking off the episode with the O.J. Simpson bronco chase set to the strains of R.E.M. is a crackerjack way to get the audience’s attention.
Always one for a knack of letting the visuals do the talking as opposed to a voiceover (that is one mark against Sky Sport’s Premier League Years) and 1994 is a perfect example of the show’s quiet power.
The genocide in Rwanda, the Loughinisland massacre and the Fred West revelations are given the reverence and tact they deserve, while never treating the viewers like children.
It would be easy for the show to just focus on the positive stuff that happened that year – we also get Ireland’s exploits at the 1994 World Cup in America, as well as Riverdance – but the mix of sweet and sour is what gives the show its power.
We couldn’t write this list without including 1990.
The Italia 90 montage is enough to secure this episode a place on the list. If you are ever in need of motivation or a cheer up, simply put this video on. Some of the best 5 minutes of television you will ever see.
Oh, and the coverage of the 1990 Presidential Election is pretty neat too, I guess.
Celtic Tiger episodes are always a treat, if only to serve as a reminder to keep us humble.
Girls Aloud soundtracks the iPhone going on sale and the rise of social media, Fergie scores the craze of Irish travellers flying to America for the weekend on shopping trips, and The Killers underlines David McWilliams’ Independence Day style warning about how the economy is about to collapse.
In a sign that the episode was about 2007, Razorlight plays as Bertie Ahern faces the Mahon Tribunal.
It was a truly historic year in Irish history, with Padraig Harrington winning the British Open, Ireland trashing England at Croke Park, as well as the iconic footage of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness sharing a laugh together at Stormont.
The 2007 episode is a snapshot of Ireland at “Peak Notions”, and we wouldn’t change a second of it.
80’s episodes of Reeling In The Years are a tough watch.
Apart from the top-notch pop tunes that underscore the episodes, it was a bleak time, from a lacklustre economy, political strife and violence at home and abroad, to Offaly somehow beating Galway in the All-Ireland final.
1986 is a pretty harrowing episode to sit through, but at least that has the decency to show Diego Maradona’s wonder goal against England in the middle of it.
1981 is as dark and unrelenting as it gets, with what is arguably the shows finest moment coming in its coverage of the H-Block hunger strikes. The usage of Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’ elevated the Miami Vice pilot from “good” to “great” and it does the same here.
The off-kilter and eerie drum track does wonders in conveying the sense of dread and fear in the nation at the time, before it cuts to RTE reporter Forbes McFall. McFall is reporting that Bobby Sands had died, and news has filtered through about his passing, from Belfast.
The iconic drum fill kicks in, as footage of the civil unrest that follows is shown. It’s an absolute masterpiece of visual and audio editing, and puts the hairs on the back of your neck standing up every time.
For that reason, 1981 is our pick for the best episode of Reeling In The Years.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below!