Young, dumb and missing the big picture
* Young, Dumb and Dangerous, RTE Two
* Cunk On Shakespeare, BBC 2
Published 14/05/2016 | 02:30
We live in an age of moral panic. It's the human condition, of course. After all, we're hard wired both to detect danger and to warn others about it. We may have developed that skill when we were trying to avoid dangerous animals which might eat us but the instinct is as strong as ever, even if the source of the danger has changed.
Now, with the addition of social media, we seem to exist in a state of permanent existential panic.
Inevitably, most of it is utterly ridiculous and you only have to look at the hysteria caused by Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines controversy a few years ago to see that some of us will never stop freaking out over things that are simply not worth the mental and emotional energy.
Violence on the streets, on the other hand, is a rather more complex issue but whether Young, Dumb and Dangerous will add to any greater understanding of the issue remains to be seen.
The programme title, for starters, was rather too hysterical for my taste. After all, few demographic groups are more routinely derided than young men, particularly young working-class men, who are all too often portrayed by a contemptuous media as a single frothing mass of feral nutters who would kill you for looking at them the wrong way.
The truth, of course, is rather more mundane. But that doesn't change the fact that it's smart to be more wary now when you go out at night than you might have been in the past.
Wednesday night's first episode of this new documentary series dealt with one of the great fears for revellers - the unlucky dig that kills you, now known as the 'one punch kill'. Employing some rather garish reconstructions of fatal assaults, it's no surprise that the show was made in conjunction with the PSNI and our own cops.
But quibbles with some of the construction of the programme aside, this was at its best when it was simply telling the individual tales of stupid, drunken flashpoints which leave someone dead.
The case of journalist Eugene Moloney was a classic example. A good man who managed the almost impossible by being universally liked in journalism (a rare feat in itself), Moloney was on his way home in 2012 when he was killed by a coward's punch thrown by a thug called Gary Burch.
Burch even did a little victory dance after landing the lethal blow, because that's what tough men do, apparently. You'll be delighted to know that, after serving a mere three years, he's free. Presumably he has learned his lesson?
If there was anything to be gleaned from this programme, other than receiving a glimpse into the devastation of the families left behind, it was surely the fact that our sentencing laws are beyond absurd, they've entered the realm of genuinely dangerous.
Another young man, James Tynan, was killed by a serial menace who had already been prosecuted for 10 previous assaults before he killed James. Why was this guy even out on the streets?
Few will have mourned James' killer's subsequent overdose in prison, and nobody could blame James' mother for remarking that the OD 'came three years too late.'
There have always been violent toe rags, and they will always be with us. But it was left to criminologist John O'Keeffe to say the unfashionable: "Some of these people are beyond redemption and incarceration is the only option."
It was hard not to feel that the real outrage here weren't the individual acts of despicable people, but a creaking and utterly outdated sentencing system which seems more interested in mercy than they are in justice.
But without justice, mercy is just another insult to a grieving family.
The era of the fake interview is over. That is surely something we can all agree on, right?
After all, nobody has come close to either Dennis Pennis or early Ali G, despite the plethora of pale imitators we see clogging up the schedules.
But we should be prepared to make a more than honourable exception for Diane Morgan, better known to most of us as Philomena Cunk, the simpleton from Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe.
Cunk On Shakespeare was the perfect antidote to the laughably po-faced torrent of luvvy twattery which has surrounded the anniversary of his death 400 years ago.
To understand Philomena Clunk, you must first realise that she doesn't actually understand anything herself.
Blithely unaware of absolutely anything going on around her, it is to the credit of Morgan's writing that she never comes across as a nasty, Waynetta Slob figure. Nope, she's just really thick and can't stand Shakespeare, which obviously made her the perfect person to do this doc or, as she called it in impeccable BBC-speak, her 'journey.'
Even her fans - and I think she's the best new talent to emerge in the last few years - wondered if she could keep up the pretence for a full show, but she could have done another episode and nobody would complain.
How could you when you're being treated to educational nuggets such as: "School in Shakespeare's day and age was vastly different to our own. In fact, it was far easier because he didn't have to study Shakespeare."
And who could possibly argue with that?