With the return of Love/Hate to our screens as of one of RTEs best home produced programmes, we take a look back at some of the less successful ones. Perhaps I am showing my age a bit, but do you remember any of these 7 “Classics”?
Calor Housewife Of The Year Gay Byrne hosted this annual ‘Lovely Girls’ triathlon for the mature Irishwoman. The finalists’ first task was to rustle up a meal. That done, they were given a dab of make-up and wheeled back out to tell how they trapped their man. Having established their desirability in the kitchen and the bedroom, they closed with a party piece that might be a song, or a jig, or a poem in Irish.
In the ’90s, the contest was dropped amid complaints that too many women working outside the home were taking part. The morning after what turned out to be the final show, a caller phoned RTE to protest that most of the finalists “would never get down on their knees to scrub the floor again”.
Leave It To Mrs O’Brien Twenty years after it ended, this dismal sitcom about two priests and their housekeeper (originally entitled The Good, The Bad & The Clergy) remains a by-word for plodding ineptitude. Mrs O’Brien was played by Anna Manahan, but RTE didn’t see the need to use a professional writer, and series one was scripted by a Dublin housewife. She was jilted for series two, with Montrose promising “more character depth” and “more reality”. Instead, they brought in plots involving mysterious sacks of swag and showbiz intrigues.
One TV critic wanted those responsible “thrown on the dole and given lousy references”. The makers finally raised a belly-laugh with the hilarious defence that their target audience were kids and oldies, and that it was RTE’s public service remit to satisfy the low expectations of these undemanding viewers.
Play The Game In any other country, Play The Game would have been scheduled in mid-morning to find its target audience of students, alcoholics and nursing home inmates. In Ireland, this charades-based charade ran as prime-time entertainment several times weekly for 10 years. The format involved Derek Davis, Ronan Collins, Twink, two sofas and a procession of ‘special guests’ who were so low-profile that carpet burns were an occupational hazard.
Upwardly Mobile This series about a “skanger” family that win the lotto and move in beside snooty neighbours, took a classic sitcom set-up and bludgeoned it to death. Joe Savino played the male lead, while Hilary Fannin was the female star. The theme song originally went: “‘So it’s goodbye to old J Arthur, and it’s hello to fine Chablis”. This was changed when RTE discovered that the J Arthur in question was not Guinness, but movie mogul J Arthur Rank. J Arthur is rhyming slang for something rude that sounds like Rank. That was as funny as this got.
Murphy’s Micro Quiz-M/Winning Streak In 1984, computers were poised to take over the world and RTE responded with a gimmicky quiz show, featuring lots of whirring sounds and flashing lights. Host Mike Murphy wore a space suit and greeted each special effect with an awestruck gasp of “Gawd, would you look at that”. He later admitted he hadn’t a clue what a ‘Quiz-M’ is.
Mike moved to Winning Streak, which makes Micro Quiz-M look like Mastermind. The Lottery-funded Winning Streak cannot involve any element of knowledge or skill and relies entirely on the “Aw! Jaysus factor”. An RTE source revealed: “Viewers love to see people win money. It makes them go ‘Aw! Jaysus’.”
Ryantown This dog’s dinner was the low-point of Gerry Ryan’s TV career which had never hit the heights. Gerry had a dog and it was disobedient. That was the show’s main running gag. Someone from Fair City would drop in and casually start cooking spaghetti bolognese. Brenda Donoghue would doorstep householders with a roving camera and there was an identity parade called Who’s Married To Who?. Ryan later admitted it was all horribly “half-baked” and “should have been taken off the air after a few shows”.
The Lyrics Board The Japanese devised a show called Endurance where a panel of volunteers suffer cruel tortures to entertain viewers at home. Giving this formula an ingenious twist, the Irish invented a show where a panel of volunteers entertain themselves by inflicting cruel tortures on viewers at home.
The Lyrics Board is stunningly simple. You just need two pianos and two panels of people who may or may not be able to sing, but who are willing to belt out songs they may or may not know in front of a demented audience. It’s every bit as good as it sounds and, to prove the point, it’s been franchised out to 21 countries.