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September 27, 2004

Couch Potato Views

Couch Potato Views

TV in Ireland is not often compelling, but it does offer us a window on another world. But, what to watch? We don’t have the TV Guide channel. Besides, the channels are limited. One broadcasts in Irish, and another broadcasts radio sports debates. And the others are a mish-mosh. So, what would you watch? Torso in the Thames? Bognor or Bust? The Worst Jobs in History?

In the midst of knitting a hat, I took the path of least resistance and tuned in on the The Worst Jobs in History. Near the top of the list was the Salt Peter Guy. In the 1700’s his job involved collecting urine, going from house to house in town, barging in as necessary – daily pick-up in the summer, every other day in the winter. More bang (as it were) for the buck, though, if you shoveled feces, added water and cooked it down to separate out the Salt Peter. And why would one need this commodity? – why, to make gunpowder. It would have taken 1500 wheelbarrows of shit to produce enough Salt Peter to make enough gun powder to blow up Parliament. Betchya didn’t know that! How about nit-picking? How different is it now, anyhow?

Now Bognor or Bust actually happens to be one of our favorite shows, which I also stumbled on while knitting yet another hat. “A topical show with a tropical prize!” This week the winner gets to go to the Taj Mahal (and India) for two weeks; the alternative is Bognor, an English seaside town with excellent wheelchair walkways and guaranteed rainy weather. The quiz show pits two ordinary contestants (this week a vicar’s wife and a 6’7” bus driver who had backed into a hearse his first day out) against each other along with his/her support team of two experts. The experts are well-informed celebrities – though neither of us had ever heard of any of them. Much of the game is spent explicating presented images/video clips from the week’s news. There was a clip of Cherie, Tony Blaire’s wife, surrounded by a group of Chinese who wanted to her sing…! The question was what did she sing and why. I happened to know it had been her birthday, and she chose to sing, “When I’m 64,” self-consciously and off-key. It was quite painful to witness – clearly an embarrassment to the British Empire, not to mention to Tony himself. Then there was Brian Keith who, unbeknownst to me, had won the world record for making a balloon dog behind his back in only 9.2 seconds – though the emcee commented that children had been bored in only 4.1 seconds. You won’t be surprised to hear that our very own “W” made the show, too. After embarrassing footage of “W” admitting that he might have made a mistake sometime/somewhere in Iraq (though he wasn’t going to say what it was), the emcee commented dryly, “Well, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll invade North Korea because they actually have weapons of mass destruction.” What makes this show so entertaining is that all the participants are clearly well-informed, clever and quick. The vicar’s wife was a stitch and a half when, in response to the query about what “W” does before he goes to sleep at night, declared disapprovingly, “Oh, that’s not right on TV.” Of course, Mark and I miss a good third of the repartee as they exchange quips so quickly and the uproarious audience laughter is real and extensive, not canned.

There are many other game shows, including what is now the classic, The Weakest Link. We witnessed its introduction to the world of TV some four years ago when we were here. Then the humiliation seemed pretty amusing. Now, it’s a bore. Mastermind is a more understated quiz show. Four chairs are lined up next to each other set against an electric, midnight blue background. Contenders take turns sitting in the hot spot, the swivel chair on stage where the spotlight shines. The camera slowly moves in as the contestant wrestles with challenging questions in his/her specialty. This is a serious show – last thing you need is music – or any other filler while contestants calmly and deliberately cogitate the questions. Last week the specialties ranged from Hercule Poirot, to the Battle of Britain, to the life and music of Buddy Holly. This week we covered unicorns, the life and work of Wittgenstein, and the life and poetry of Wilfred Owens. Questions initially are posed in the contenders’ areas of expertise. Later the screws are turned, and general knowledge is tested. The truth will out. Clearly those who have traveled, gone to the movies and benefited from a liberal arts education are in the strongest position. It is very hard to tell the winners from the losers based on body language. People sit straight and are reserved. A slight furrow in the brow might indicate profound disappointment, disappointment in oneself, of course. Tonight the large, balding unicorn specialist with a lisp carried his stuffed wombat with him as a good luck charm. All in all, though not exactly Jeopardy, and a host more Alistair Cooke than Alex Trebek, this is the most understated and restrained game show we have ever seen.

Watching the Ryder Cup debacle in Europe was a novel experience. Where the American TV crowd groans on TV, here the viewers cheer, especially given the success of the three Irish members of the European team. Chants of “USA,” “USA,” “USA” sounded a bit bombastic over here where a bunch of essentially journeymen golfers along with a few star players went up against some of the highest paid athletes on the planet. We couldn’t help being taken with the spirit of Europe’s team. Few Americans, save for golf junkies, could take as much pleasure from victory as Ireland’s sports fans did. Yet, their comments were more sympathetic than triumphant. “A bit odd how tense and joyless your American chaps seem” was one rather telling remark after Day One. “Hope they make a show of it so Sunday is worth watching.” We dealt with our national humiliation by consuming significant quantities of Guinness and Old Paddy. (Some of us did, anyhow.)

(So, friends and family, can you tell which of us took initiativewith each section?!)

And now for some fun and games… THE TV GAME! Our very own game show of shows…

As you all know, Mark and I come from game-playing families, and we would like to offer you the option of joining us in an altogether NEW game. We have selected (and watched, to some extent or other) the following shows presented each week on our TV here in Dublin. The challenge is for you to describe each show as if you were billing it in a TV guide. Extra marks for details pertaining to a particular episode. You can go for the gold and really try to figure out what each one is about – or you can just let you imagination run wild. Now, there is one rule: no research, no googling these shows.

I am going to post this game on the webpage Danny has put together for me, and then you can respond there – and everyone will get to see everyone else’s responses. Be sure to log in first, following the directions on the webpage. I will send you the link.
Here is the sample of weekly TV shows:

Car Booty

Hangin’ With Hector

Rasai Lios Tuathal

A Place in the Sun

Flog It!

Ground Force

Have fun, and we will let you know what the shows really are about – sometime in the not too distant future. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts… Gretchen and Mark

Posted by gretchen at September 27, 2004 03:34 PM


Hangin’ With Hector; Sundays 3:30am - 5:30am: New reality show features the Chester Beatty Museum's most outrageous docent making house calls to help ordinary people display their prints and memorabilia. This week: Hector visits Siobhan and Steve in Cork; it turns out their dramatic Robert Doisneau poster collection and masonry walls are more than Hector bargained for! SAP available.

Posted by: Jesse at September 27, 2004 09:58 PM

Here's some additional Irish humor:
Personal Ads...Dublin News

Heavy drinker, 35, Cork area.  Seeks gorgeous sex addict interested in a man who loves his pints, cigarettes,Glasgow Celtic Football Club and starting fights on Patrick Street at three o'clock in the morning.
Bitter disillusioned Dublin man, lately rejected by long-time fiancée, seeks decent, honest, reliable woman, if such a thing exists in this cruel world of hatchet-faced bitches.
Ginger haired Galway man, a trouble-maker, gets slit-eyed and shitty after a few scoops, seeks attractive, wealthy lady for bail purposes, maybe more.
Bad tempered, foul-mouthed old bastard, living in a damp cottage in the arse end of Roscommon, seeks attractive 21 year old blonde lady, with a lovely chest.
Limerick man, 27, medium build, brown hair, blue eyes, seeks alibi for the night of February 27 between 8 and 11:30 PM.

Posted by: Mark at September 28, 2004 01:31 PM

Just saying Hi, and I found the posting. More creative contributions may be coming. I'm working on a personal ad first.

Posted by: Jane at September 28, 2004 02:57 PM

Sounds like fun...I'm in!

Posted by: Lea at September 29, 2004 09:42 PM

Ground Force--It's new this season on the cooking channel. A show dedicated to the complexities of gourmet coffees. It's been a hit with the caffeine addicts. Underwritten by Starbucks.

Posted by: Dorothy at October 6, 2004 12:45 AM