Monday, October 15, 2007

The Podge and Rodge Generation

The Podge and Rodge Show returns to our screens tonight. 400,000 people watch Podge and Rodge every week, which is phenomenal. Podge and Rodge are us. We recognise ourselves in them.

And is An Spailpín Fánach so very distant from his country and culture that I find something deeply, deeply wrong with that?

A Scare at Bedtime, the original incarnation of the O’Leprosy brothers, was inspired. It was the ideal format for the puppets, because it was on late at night, in its correct place. It also contains one of your correspondent’s favorite dialogue moments in contemporary Irish drama, not an overpopulated field.

It’s coming up to Christmas, and Podge discovers Rodge writing something. Podge asks Rodge what he’s writing.

Rodge: “It’s me Satan list.”
Podge: “Don’t you mean your Santa list?”
Rodge: “No – I was writing to him for ages and never got nothin’. I said I’d give the quare fella a go.”

Perfect. And the scare stories themselves, invariably featuring dirty work that is punished in a dreadfully apposite way, were inspired. Consider the case of the Tractor of Doom, featuring the Dublin ponce son of Old Man Toolin, who inherits the farm and attempts to plough the land, against the advice the locals who know it to have been druids’ land. He is returned to the soil under his own ploughshares, and it was good enough for him, the ponce. From Dublin.

Marvellous vignettes of Irish rural life, like visiting Ballymagash of Hall’s Pictorial Weekly fame after living solely on a diet of stale bottled stout and rancid chicken for about a week – you’d be seeing all sorts of quare apparitions.

And that was grand in its place. What bothers An Spailpín Fánach is that the boys weren’t kept in their place, and brought out into the mainstream instead, which is no place for that sort of schtick.

A friend of An Spailpín likes to refer to his swear switch. Like your correspondent himself, and like most of your corr's peculiar circle of friends, both male and female, this man swears all the time. But he is aware that sort of carry-on is upsetting to some people, such as his mother, or his boss, or his bank manager, or lots of other people, so when he’s in inappropriate company he switches off the swear switch. It’s like remembering to put the handbrake on in the car or lifting the toilet seat – simple common sense and courtesy for others.

What bothers An Spailpín Fánach is not only that Podge and Rodge don’t have a swear switch, but the nation doesn’t seem to mind that they don’t have a swear switch. We are all meant to join in laughter, delighted that we are no longer under the repressive hand of Eamon DeValera.

But Dev is dead thirty-two years now, and the society that formed him dead for even longer than that. What we have instead is Trevor Sargeant throwing the rattle from the pram a few months ago about not being invited onto the Podge and Rodge show. Trevor Sargeant, of the Green Party, supposedly the most righteous political party we have, thinks it’s of paramount importance to appear on a chat show where the chief lines of interrogation concern whether or not one ever had relations with one’s pets or inquires as to the regularity or otherwise of one’s bowels. James Connolly was shot in a chair for this?

Lucy Kennedy, Debbie McGee to Podge and Rodge’s Paul Daniels, is one of the supposed upcoming stars of RTÉ for playing straight-woman to this stuff. Maybe An Spailpín has been hanging around the convent for too long, but most ladies of An Spailpín’s acquaintance wouldn’t tolerate this conversation even in the limited exposure of a Saturday night out, to say nothing of broadcasting it into the nation’s homes at tax-payers expense. Is Lucy Kennedy that fond of the spotlight, or is, as a fiery redhead once told him many years ago, your faithful chronicler of contemporary Irish life hopelessly, irredeemably quaint?

Former gubernatorial candidate for the state of Texas Richard “Kinky” Friedman once wrote that there is a time to live and a time to die and time to stop listening to the Byrds. Maybe it’s time to start giving Podge and Rodge the wide steer, and tackle an apple and a good book instead.

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