Ian O'Doherty: 'It's the bland leading the deaf' - TV reviews of The Voice and Claire Byrne Live
The Voice of Ireland (RTE One). Claire Byrne Live (RTE One).
One of the great myths peddled to a credulous public is that you can be anything you want to be. Hey, goes this logic, you're just as good as everybody else and why shouldn't you be just as rich and famous as the people you idolise?
It's the kind of woolly, bogus nonsense that first appeared in California a few decades ago and while people on this side of the pond used to sneer at the more ridiculous excesses of the self-empowerment movement, we've lost that ability to look at things critically.
Of course, whenever anyone points out that some kid has about as much talent and charisma as a piece of boiled cabbage, you're immediately accused of the worst modern sin of them all - being a 'hater'.
There's a line in an old Tom Sharpe novel which saw a father bemoaning his daughter's ballet lessons. She looked, he reckoned, 'like a baby hippopotamus trying to learn how to fly'.
I wonder how many of the parents who turn up backstage for their little pride and joy's performance on The Voice actually realise that their child can't sing, and that what passes for their voice is actually a strangulated croak that should never, ever be unleashed on an unsuspecting public.
Not very many, I reckon, because the usual entourage of family members and friends who turn up all seem to be genuinely convinced that their little star is, indeed, a star - even when it is painfully clear that they simply look like they're taking part in a talent show featuring the inmates from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
This week saw rumours of the imminent demise of The Voice and there's no doubt that it's time to put the show out of our misery.
Contrary to what the judges and Kathryn Thomas say, this isn't a programme designed to find the next great new voice in Ireland, because all the kids who have anything of interest to say are off jamming in their garage or writing music with their mates. One thing is certain - they certainly don't feel an urge to seek the approval of some bird who used to be in S Club 7.
Instead we're left with a bunch of increasingly bored-looking judges, with the only potential interest residing in the hope that Kian Egan's barely suppressed rage will finally explode in a flurry of vicious personal insults against those contestants who seem to irritate him so much.
Even that flickering opportunity came and went on Sunday when one of his charges explained that she hadn't been able to sufficiently rehearse her song because she is on medication for manic depression and sometimes she has to stay in bed for the day.
Manic depression is no impediment to making great music (your record collection would be half its size if it was) but staying in bed certainly is.
Of course, rather than being ejected from the show, she was put through the next round and while you could see the gears grinding in Egan's mind as he tried to make sure he didn't say anything that could be construed as 'unhelpful' (that other great modern sin), he must have wondered how Simon Cowell would have reacted if one of his acts used that excuse to get out of doing their homework.
But this isn't a talent show, or a vehicle for finding the next big thing. It is, of course, one giant, group hug beamed into our houses every week.
But like all group hugs, you end up feeling sullied and a bit daft afterwards.
So, it's not about the music, it's evidently not about the entertainment and it's certainly not about finding new talent.
So what is it about?
Well, it's about to be cancelled. That's what.
Thankfully, group hugs were in short supply on this week's Claire Byrne Live, which dealt with the water protests.
Ruth Coppinger of the Democratic People's Republic of Kampuchea, or whatever her party is called this week, was clear - it was the bankers and bondholders - the bankholders? - wot dun it. Oh yeah, the Government as well, because they're like really mean and shit.
Halfway through her smug, dreary didacticism I was filled with a sense of rage, but not against Coppinger, who is hardly worth the effort.
No, it was a residual, and nearly forgotten, rage against Bertie Ahern and his regime which so comprehensively shattered this country that we're now in a situation where Coppinger and the other assorted cranks and communists who should have remained marginalised in student politics have now become elected representatives in the grown-up Dail.
When confronted with the awkward truth that people installing the water meters are just working stiffs doing a job and they don't deserve the intimidation they have been subjected to, she simply replied that they should 'consider their position' if they felt threatened. Charming, I'm sure.
Byrne is an excellent broadcaster not because of her opinions, but because she keeps those opinions to herself and the new show is gaining strength with each episode.
But the abiding memory is that of Ruth Coppinger scoffing and sneering and looking for all the world like the puppet of Susan Sarandon from Team America.
Honestly, I wouldn't have been surprised if she had started to screech, a la Sarandon, that her opponents would die a peasant's death before going off on a rant about the kulaks in our midst.
Nice one, Bertie, this is the legacy you left behind.
Although I doubt Coppinger would appreciate being regarded as Ahern's political love child. Which, I suppose, is another good reason to say it.