Awful sitcom tops on the box . . . but do not adjust your mind, there's a fault in reality
FIFTEEN minutes into A Killinaskully Christmas Carol on RTE1, a friend phoned to ask if I'd been watching it and to compare notes on how awful it was.
As it happened, I had been watching - in a state of petrified disbelief that something so dreadfully sub-standard, so cripplingly cliched and embarrassingly unfunny, could be the national broadcaster's main home-produced comedic attraction at peak time on Christmas Night.
I've never been much of a fan of Pat Shortt's broad brand of comedy, with its gallery of cartoon-culchie villagers wearing silly wigs and speaking in exaggerated mock accents.
But Killinaskully makes Shortt's earlier work with Jon Kenny in D'Unbelievables seem like Curb Your Enthusiasm by comparison.
Clearly, though, many people don't share my view - including the 825,000 viewers who made Killinaskully Irish television's most highly-rated programme on Christmas Night, and indeed for the entire Christmas fortnight.
This could mean one of two things: either I'm totally out of touch with the viewing mood of the nation - and frankly, I don't believe I am - or else the festive season rouses in people a sense of sentimental, patriotic loyalty towards RTE's offerings.
The list of the most-watched programmes over the Christmas and New Year period seems to support this theory.
Of the 20 most popular programmes, 19 were shown on RTE1.
The New Year's Eve edition of Winning Streak took second place with 670,000 viewers, while The Late Late Show (Dec 23) came third on 638,000.
In third and fourth place, respectively, were EastEnders (Jan 2, 596,000) and the Christmas Day film Pirates of the Caribbean (623,000).
Only TV3's December 28 episode of Coronation Street, which charted in sixth place with 589,000, slightly spoiled the Montrose party.
Further down the list, with figures in the 500,000 to 560,000 range, were the likes of Showbands 2, Coulter & Company, an umpteenth repeat of Fawlty Towers, the return of Eddie Hobbs's Show Me the Money, Ryan Tubridy's New Year's Eve show and the Colin Farrell film The Recruit.
RTE is understandably trumpeting its dominant position among the domestic broadcasters over Christmas, yet the figures have to be kept in perspective.
The crucial flaw with this type of audience research is that it doesn't factor in other important elements, such as those Irish viewers who chose to bypass the home channels altogether in favour of the British and satellite stations.
How many Irish people, for instance, tuned in to the Doctor Who special on BBC1 on Christmas Day?
How many in this country opted to ring in the New Year with Jools Holland on BBC2 rather than Ryan Tubridy on RTE1?
Only when this type of information is fed into the mix will we get the complete picture of what people are really watching.