Tuesday 20 November 2018

Cartoons on spaced Bunuel fix

THE IMMINENT prospect of an Irish Big Brother raises a riddle RTE's soap squad have always been aware of but never quite managed to solve: truth is more lucrative than fiction. Contrast Channel 4's recent real life intrigues with Fair City's kitchen sink (i.e. tepid and soggy) drama. Sure, there's an awful lot of hamming it up for the camera on Big Brother, but it still makes for pretty riveting viewing when compared to the sluggish plotlines, undynamic editing and cheap sets that are de rigueur down Donnybrook way.

Do the City scribes ever actually recite any of the dialogue they palm off on their actors? One wonders why the programme's scriptwriters don't simply segregate a dozen Dublin thespians on an RTE lot for a few weeks, film them with hidden cameras, then transpose the ensuing ructions into blocks of script. At least they'd get some salty dialogue out of it.

But then, you don't necessarily need a plot to be entertaining. Recent nights on Network 2 have played host to two British comedy institutions of vastly varying vintage namely Monty Python and The Fast Show operating in areas of humour which have come to be regarded as typically Irish (or, at least, Anglo-Irish) in tone. Reviewing the Python crew with the benefit of 30 years of hindsight, it's not hard to see the origins of the `Look-Ma-No-Punchline/Stop-Making-Sense' comedy plied by homegrown honchos like Dylan Moran, Tommy Tiernan and the Father Ted mob. Similarly, the parade of lost causes flashing by on The Fast Show could've walked straight out of The Poor Mouth or The Goons.

MIND YOU, even such scatology looks tame when compared to what's going on in the cartoon sector and I'm not necessarily talking about ``adult'' satires such as South Park, The Simpsons or King Of The Hill either. Casually click on to Den 2 or Nickelodeon for an hour or two and you'll find material more surreal than anything cooked up by Bunuel and the boys on a mushroom binge. It says a lot about the television business when the kids' networks have more sly satire, intelligence and imagination invested in them than most so-called ``adult'' programming. Not that there's anything inappropriate in the content, just that the one-liners and visual gags are subtle enough to go over children's heads in all the right places.

For example, there's Catdog, based on the plight of a canine/feline mutant with a second head where the tail should be, given to incessantly bickering with itself. ``We don't use the term `freak','' is this two-headed creature's catchphrase, parodying PC puritanism, ``We prefer `bicranial quadruped'.''

Or the equally bizarre bazaar that is Rocko's Modern Life. Consider the following plotline: our hero Rocko gets the 'flu, glugs down a bottle of medicine which is ``not to be taken orally'', hallucinates a series of phantasmagorical dream sequences soundtracked by acid-jazz saxophone, and vomits up three characters - Retch, Ralph and Huey - who then proceed to cure him of his ailment.

Indeed, disgorgement is a recurring theme in these cartoons. A recent short feature entitled The Adventures Of Hot Chunks concerned three wayfaring blobs of upchuck being pursued by a demonic French sickbag. This Gallic gag-bag eventually got his comeuppance when a small boy mistook him for a pooper-scooper and filled him with dog droppings, much to the delight of the cheeky Chunks, who mooned him in victory.

That's not even taking into account the really weird stuff like Angry Beavers, The Ren And Stimpy Show, or (Noel Gallagher's favourite) Spongebob Squarepants. Evidently, the Animators Association of America all had parents who were passed out in the Woodstock mud when the famous ``Don't touch the brown acid'' warning came over the PA system.

SPEAKING OF the Woodstock generation, Channel 4's Hellraisers/The Real Keith Moon double bill last weekend started out equally comical but ended up in tears. Sure, the sight of assorted thespians, sportsmen and rock stars wrecking hotels and drinking themselves comatose proved amusing in a goldfish bowl kinda way for about 20 minutes, but the roll call of tragedies soon took its toll on the synapses, whether it was Oliver Reed shambling towards his inevitable date with that great barman in the sky, Alex Higgins being reduced to hustling games for spare change, or the aforementioned maniacal Who drummer looking 55 by the age of 30.

Moon, of course, was a great musician and an even greater carouser, but the trail of destruction left in his wake was truly grisly to behold, not least a small daughter absolutely terrified of her old man, and guitarist Pete Townsend's hearing being irreparably damaged by one of his bandmate's more explosive pranks. Thank God Dickie Harris bailed out before he too crashed and burned. Now there's a man who'd put manners on the Fair City lot.

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