Friday 22 February 2019

Television review: Still liberals after all this time

  • The Young Offenders (RTE2)

Chris Walley (left) and Alex Murphy in The Young Offenders TV series Picture: Miki Barlok
Chris Walley (left) and Alex Murphy in The Young Offenders TV series Picture: Miki Barlok
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

We have become accustomed in recent times to seeing a lot of bad men on the TV news, saying and doing bad things, often in conjunction with other bad men, in furtherance of their various projects to inundate the world with their badness.

But last week there seemed to be even more bad men than usual, talking about the ways in which they exploit the weaknesses of good people, many of whom are able to do very little about it, except to watch it all happening on television.

Yes there are many "bad actors" out there, as Trump has called them, but of course when he is talking about bad actors, he is talking about the kind of actors who are regarded by all decent people as good actors.

Which should lead us naturally to reminiscing about The Young Offenders, though the reason we are already nostalgic for that fine Cork comedy at this abysmal time in history, is probably more to with the goodness than the acting - which of course was very good as well.

Goodness - this is what it was all about. Not goodness in the bad sense, the old moralistic sense which we imbibed from the corrupted streams of organised religion, but true goodness of the kind that comes from classic liberal values - the only ones, it seems, that can now save us from the catastrophe to which all that badness is inexorably leading.

The Young Offenders was not just liberal in its outlook, it was loudly, unapologetically, card-carryingly, bleeding-heartedly liberal.

We were invited to consider the difficult family circumstances of those we might otherwise regard simply as hooligans. We were invited to consider the various forms of emotional and material deprivation which can lead a person to become a "young offender", as such, and still somehow to emerge not as a bad person, but essentially a good person.

We were encouraged to view racial integration as a normal part of life. We were urged to have empathy with young women who become pregnant in difficult circumstances, and if the matter of abortion had entered the picture, I have no doubt that the approach would have been not just card-carryingly, bleeding-heartedly liberal, but openly repeal-the-eighthedly liberal. And rightly so.

Towards the end we were persuaded to have some small sympathy with a very dangerous man who hi-jacked a bus and who threatened the passengers with a knife. We were even asked to see some good in the principal of the school and in the guard.

And all this was done without recourse to sentimentality or to other forms of creative chicanery. So that when future generations are looking back at this time in which bad men were prospering so spectacularly, and they ask why good people were apparently doing nothing to stop it apart from watching it on television, the makers of The Young Offenders at least will be able to say; 'We did not do nothing. We did something.'

Indeed perhaps it was fitting that as the credits rolled, we felt that we were returning to a world in which anything that is any good is in constant danger - the continuity announcer kept talking over the music, After All by The Frank and Walters, an echo of the climactic scene, the bus-jacking which had featured a classic performance of the song.

I found it disgraceful at the time, that such a thing could be allowed to happen, but then my bleeding-heart liberal values persuaded me that perhaps those responsible for this monstrosity are themselves struggling with issues the nature of which I can but barely comprehend. And that if I knew them better, I would at least understand why they don't know, that talented people who have spent many long hours trying to select the perfect piece of music to end their excellent series, might prefer if it wasn't drowned out by talk of some forthcoming documentary about the making of SpongeBob SquarePants.

But I suppose there are worse things in this world.

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