Tuesday 12 December 2017

And the winner of the TV summer fillers is...

* The Late Review with Ger Colleran, TV 3
* The Last Man On Earth, Dave

Tabloid heaven: Former editor of 'The Star' Ger Colleran led a debate on prostitution legislation on TV3
Tabloid heaven: Former editor of 'The Star' Ger Colleran led a debate on prostitution legislation on TV3
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

It's the fag end of one of the worst summers many of us can remember. The early optimism of spring eventually succumbed to the gloomy realisation that having enjoyed two decent summers, we were now back into the usual Irish weather - where the only difference between the rain is that it is a bit warmer at this time of the year. Which is nice, if you're a duck.

Let's put it this way, I was absurdly pleased to learn that last month had been the coldest July in 50 years. After spending the last few months turning the central heating on at night and waking every morning to the grey fug that has enveloped the country, I was just delighted to discover that I hadn't gone mad and the weather really was as bad as I had suspected. So, in this kind of gloom, is it too much to expect some decent, locally produced telly?

The answer is yes, obviously. After all, the paucity of the Irish schedules is no slave to the seasons. In fact, they can be pretty threadbare and truly terrible at any time of the year.

But if the devil is in the details, sometimes the winners are in the fillers and The Late Review with Ger Colleran has provided some interesting nuggets this week.

The average tabloid editor, as Colleran once was when he helmed The Star, is often seen as something of a cliche.

They're expected to be loud, irascible, grumpy and, in my experience, many of them have displayed true psychopathic tendencies - and I say that as a compliment, which shows what a fun and fraught world tabloid journalism can be.

But telly is not tabloid and if some of the most lauded editors in the history of Irish journalism brought the same force to bear in a TV studio as they do in a newsroom, they'd be promptly arrested and very likely sectioned.

So The Late Review with Ger Colleran is a rather more cerebral affair than you might expect from a tabloid editor - and it's all the better for it.

The standard for this week was set in the first item on Monday night.

Following Amnesty's call for the legalisation of prostitution the usual anti-happiness brigade have been out in force trying to conflate prostitution with rape and sex slavery, which makes as much sense as confusing erotica with child abuse, as often happens in the equally asinine debate about pornography.

Joining Colleran were Ellen O'Malley Dunlop of the Rape Crisis Centre, and Laura Lee, a sex workers' advocate who has been a loud and effective champion of the rights of prostitutes to live their life as they see fit.

In fairness to O'Malley Dunlop, many of the most shrill critics of prostitution are quick to talk when they're unchallenged but have an unfortunate tendency to duck out of any actual debate. So, for her decision to appear, she should be congratulated.

But by God, what she had to say was bonkers and incredibly patronising towards women.

Consent can't be given, as far as she is concerned, so therefore there is never any circumstance where it is acceptable for someone to pay for sex.

In face of such muddled thinking, Lee kept an admirably restrained head on her shoulders as she calmly dismissed the insulting assertion that someone like her is incapable of giving consent.

As part of the ludicrous 'Stop The Red Light' campaign, O'Malley Dunlop is well used to making sweeping statements but her plaintive cry of: "We must ask ourselves why is this happening in our society, why are men needing to go to prostitutes?" was easily answered - they're men.

As long as people are prepared to pay for sex there will be people prepared to offer the service, but as Lee pointed out: "Trafficking is already a crime, rape is already a crime and kidnapping is already a crime."

What the likes of O'Malley Dunlop either cannot, or will not, accept, is that you can't criminalise adult behaviour just because you find it icky.

It was an interesting debate with Colleran working as interviewer rather than circus ringmaster and the absence of bluster allowed an important debate to be conducted with clarity.

Sadly, neither guest nor host made another salient point - just because you want prostitution legalised doesn't mean you want it to be compulsory.

We're enjoying some great end-of-the-world TV at the moment as post-Millennial tension morphs into a cultural obsession with our own demise.

The latest addition to the ranks of the end-times TV is the self explanatory The Last Man On Earth.

Not to be confused with the Vincent Price movie of the same name (the first adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic I Am Legend), the year is 2021 and humanity has been wiped out. Nearly.

Forty-something misfit Phil Miller (SNL almuni Will Forte) has driven through every state of the union in a fruitless search for a fellow survivor before returning to his native Tucson to live out the rest of his life in a state of increasing isolation and insanity.

Without any civilising influence, he soon descends into a moral morass of heavy drinking, endless porn and, rather ingeniously, turns a swimming pool into a giant outside toilet.

Oh, and he also fills a child's paddling pool with tequila because, as he quite sensibly says: "You can swim in it, you can drink it. You can't go wrong with a Margarita pool."

In other words, Miller is a typical everyman, if your typical everyman wanders around in his boxers while breaking and shooting things just for the hell of it. I can think of worse ways to spend the rest of your life, to be honest.

But as loneliness sinks in, we actually get the darkest opening episode of any sitcom I can remember.

Having finally decided to pluck up the courage to talk to a mannequin in a clothes shop, he realises that he has gone mad and decides to kill himself. But just before he does, he sees smoke in the distance and our permanently horny anti-hero is delighted to discover some bras drying in the desert sun.

Sadly, the bra owner, and the person with whom he shall have to repopulate the earth, is an almighty pain in the ass. In fact, Carol (Kristen Schall, of 30 Rock and Flight Of The Conchords) is the kind of woman that men dream about - only to wake up screaming.

She also happens to be practical, intelligent and aware of the gravity of their situation, not that any of this makes any difference to Phil, who so resents this new intrusion into his life that he, the last man alive, starts to complain that he needs his space.

The usual suspects have been quick to condemn its perceived sexism, but if anyone is portrayed badly here, it's surely men. For normal people, however, who can judge a show on its merits rather on whether it conforms to their tedious biases, this is very dark and extremely funny.

Irish Independent

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