Modern tweaks can't hide Rose of Tralee's naffness
This year's Rose of Tralee competition has been dragged, legs first, to the very edge of the 20th century, but progress happens at a slower rate in this traditional celebration of plastic Paddywhackerettes, which only got around to admitting single mothers in 2005.
They weren't just any old legs, either, and certainly not host Daithi O Se's doubtlessly hairy, manly pins. They were female legs. Brazenly bare female legs, attached to the Dublin Rose, Roisin Lyons.
Midway through Monday night's first marathon show (production deadlines preclude me from reviewing last night's, at the end of which the winning Rose was crowned - or rather, tiara-ed), Roisin, with a little assistance from Daithi, removed the bottom portion of her dress to do a little bit of Irish dancing she'd choreographed herself.
You wouldn't have caught Gaybo, who hosted the Rose for 17 years, juggling it with his stewardship of that other icon of down-home naffness, the Calor Housewife of the Year, whose pilot light went out many moons ago, doing anything as ungentlemanly as fiddling with the clasp of a woman's frock. Then again, Gaybo wasn't a twinkling Kerry sex god like Daithi.
This modest flash of female flesh wasn't the only nod to modernity in an attempt to give the evening the feel of a shiny floor show. Tucked away in a corner, radio's Will Leahy, partially obscured behind the kind of OB microphone sports commentators use, kept us up to date on what was being said on social media, studiously avoiding the derogatory (and frequently very funny) comments buzzing around on Twitter.
The Rose has also acquired its own secondary tie-in show, a must these days in reality television. During the half-hour break for the nine o'clock news and weather, Aidan Power presented Live from the Red Room exclusively on the RTE player.
Why a red room and not the more usual green one, I don't know, but the colour certainly reflected the sense of embarrassed desperation wafting off the host like steam. Normally cheerily unflappable in face of the most chronic banality, Power looked as restless as a pig in a butcher's shop as he tried to conjure 30 minutes of live TV out of thin air.
"Hello, James Bond!" he greeted Daithi (eh?), who was just heading off for his half-time tea and biscuits.
Aidan then had a chat with a few of the Roses while they were having their warpaint applied, watched another one - our old friend Roisin Lyons again - stuff four Tunnock's teacakes into her mouth as the party piece, and then heroically endured yet another's impression of Gollum (she sounded more like Donald Duck after root canal surgery), which seemed to go on longer than a Lord of the Rings movie.
None of this tweaking and twiddling can successfully disguise the reality that the Rose of Tralee, a naff Lovely Girls pageant dreamt up 55 years ago by a group of local businessmen in Harty's bar (been there; nice pub) to drum up some badly needed tourist traffic, is basically... well, the same naff Lovely Girls competition that was dreamt up 55 years ago, only now the tent is bigger, the dresses flashier and costlier, the sponsors (who, by way of full disclosure, include the Irish Independent) more plentiful, and the contestants, who used to be homespun types glowing with virginal purity and exuding the aroma of freshly-baked soda bread, rehearsed to within an inch of their lives.
An extra star to Daithi, hwoever, for guiding the turgid spectacle with charm.