'Bridget & Eamon is witless rubbish, no matter what channel it’s on' - Pat Stacey
A television critic with another newspaper wondered in her review column at the weekend what the comedy series Bridget & Eamon is doing on RTE2.
Sidestepping for the moment a possibly even more pertinent question (What is Bridget & Eamon doing on television at all?), you can understand where she’s coming from.
Bridget & Eamon is supposed to be a send-up of the bad old 1980s in Ireland – which, if truth be told, were considerably better than the bad old 1970s and arguably no worse than what we’re living through right now.
Logic dictates, therefore, that the natural audience for the series would be people who remember the decade of yuppies, brick-sized mobile phones, red braces, pretentious wine bars, bottled-water snobbery, Sony Walkmans, mass emigration, mass unemployment, prescription-only condoms, moving statues, the first divorce referendum and Charlie Haughey telling us on TV that we needed to tighten our belts, while his own belt was keeping an expensive handmade shirt tucked safely into his trousers.
In other words, people who, if you put your faith in the guff about “target audiences” and “demographics” that television’s marketing wonks love to spout as though they were down on their knees reciting a mantra, would normally be found watching RTE1 rather than RTE2. In other words, people like me.
The big, glaring flaw in this logic is that people like me don’t always behave the way the marketing wonks would like us to. We don’t always conform to type.
In my case, aside from news, documentaries (traditionally the channel’s strongest suit) and the occasional current affairs programme, I generally watch RTE1 for review purposes only.
As a viewer, I have zero interest in Fair City, At Your Service, Operation Transformation, The Voice of Ireland, Room to Improve, Eco Eye or any of the shows featuring the celebrity chefs for whom RTE generously provides an extra source of income on top of their restaurant businesses.
If something of interest crops up on The Late Late Show – which it rarely does these days anyway – I can always catch up with it on the RTE Player the next day, without having to endure Ryan Tubridy reminding me every 10 minutes that if I don’t sit bolted to my armchair for the remainder of the evening, I won’t win the competition for a shiny new car or a luxury holiday.
The irony is that if I’m going to watch RTE at all, I’d be more inclined to watch RTE2, because it tends to be very strong on quality imports: Homeland, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Big Bang Theory, The Americans, Elementary, Deutschland 83, The X-Files. It also tends to show them several weeks before they go out on the British channels.
The theory that there’s such a thing as a target audience, a herd of fenced-in, goggle-eyed sheep that will watch only a particular type of programme on a particular channel, might have held a tiny droplet of water when our viewing choices were limited to RTE, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. It’s been springing leaks for years, though, and nowhere more so than in this country.
RTE, of all broadcasters, should know that you can’t put viewers into boxes neatly arranged according to age or imagined preferences.
Love/Hate, which went out on RTE1 on Sunday nights – supposedly the preserve of the middle aged-to-elderly viewer – broke viewing records for an Irish drama, while at the same time trampling on the artificial barriers built around age, gender and class background.
On an even broader canvas, the viewing phenomenon that’s been dominating online conversation for months is another series that crossed all the divides marketing wonks create in their own heads, Netflix’s Making a Murderer – and that’s not even on television, which exposes the whole target audience myth for the nonsense it is.
Incidentally, I watched the first episode of Bridget & Eamon but I won’t be watching any more. That’s not because I’m not part of the so-called target audience.
I’m the ideal viewer, in fact; I was all grown-up and earning a living in the ’80s, and I’d recognise all the references.
It’s because Bridget & Eamon is witless rubbish, no matter what channel it’s on.