Are RTÉ's arbiters blind to the excesses of gross 'Savage Eye'?
The Savage Eye has returned for a new RTÉ2 series and in this week's first instalment its topics were pregnancy, birth and childhood – or, as the opening title framed it: "Why is Ireland a better place to be a foetus than a baby?" To this end, it featured the rancidly repulsive publican familiar from earlier series and played by David McSavage, who leeringly delivered the following spiel to camera.
"A lot of people asked me did I stop ridin' the wife when she was pregnant but, shure, that's the best time to ride her. It's like ridin' a bouncy castle. And it's a bit of craic for the baby, like, it gives them a bit of exercise. Shure, I rode the wife when she was givin' birth, ha, ha, ha".
I briefly pondered the notion that there must be someone out in RTÉ – some arbiter of taste and standards – who decrees what's permissible to broadcast and what's not, or even what's remotely amusing or not, but plainly there isn't because a few minutes later in the same show there was a sketch in which a group of children prepared to play a game of Cowboys and Indians.
In this, a young boy who was played by a child actor of no more than 10 or 12, whooped: "I'll cut off your genitals while you're still alive and shove them in your mouth". This was followed by a young girl, played by another child actor of much the same age, yelling to another young girl: "And I'll stab you, rip open your belly, mutilate the foetus and wear it as a hat".
In other words, RTÉ has become so careless about its programming that it allows the employment of children to utter hate-filled, explicitly sexual and violent remarks that even Channel 4 or BBC3 at their most outré would blanch at if they were voiced by adults. And yes, I know that what may be anathema to one person can be high jinks to another, but a line was crossed here that I would think is rather difficult to defend.
Who's running RTÉ2? I'm also finding it difficult to tolerate all those TV dramas that depend for their impact on young women as victims of violent sexual crime. Even women writers themselves are getting in on the act – Sally Hawkins being the latest with her BBC1 crime series, Happy Valley, in which a young woman is kidnapped and abused by a serial rapist.
I wrote enthusiastically of Happy Valley last week, but it got a lot nastier in this week's episode and looks set to get even more unpleasant. Its saving graces are its genuinely intriguing plot, its striking West Yorkshire setting, some flashes of dry humour and outstanding performances from Sarah Lancashire as the doggedly decent policewoman and Steve Pemberton as the cash-strapped executive who requested a kidnapping that's gone way beyond his control. I'll stick with it in the hope that the young woman doesn't have to endure even further abuse.
And I'm certainly sticking with Fargo (Channel 4), which retains the blackly comic ambience of the 1996 Coen brothers' movie but which is spiralling off into intriguing other directions. Martin Freeman has said he took on the role of the shifty Lester Nygaard in order to offset the cuddly image he acquired from The Office, Sherlock and The Hobbit and he's definitely succeeded in that.
But the series so far has mainly belonged to Allison Tolman as homely, likeable but very persistent cop Molly and Billy Bob Thornton as mischievously malevolent hitman Lorne, who delivers some very droll lines with a deadpan expression that's as funny as it's truly alarming.
The Island With Bear Grylls (Channel 4) is something of a misnomer given that once the brashly macho presenter had deposited his 13 male guinea pigs on an inhabited Pacific outcrop he vanished from the scene – which I have to say was fine by me.
These "modern British men" were being tasked with fending for themselves with no food and only the most basic of survival tools – or as Grylls put it: "I want to find out what happens if you strip men of all the luxuries and conveniences of modern living and then force them to fight for their very existence".
Among those engaged in this spurious battle are a domineering and very tiresome ex-cop, a camp hairdresser and a refined neurologist. Lord of the Flies it ain't but for those who thrilled to I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, this looks like being the non-celebrity version. Minus women, though, and where's the fun in that?
After a four-year absence, Jack Bauer's back in 24: Live Another Day (Sky 1), the title of which is presumably supposed to remind you of Die Another Day, though a noticeably gaunt-faced Kiefer Sutherland is no Pierce Brosnan and Jack's anti-terrorist methods go beyond anything James Bond ever practised.
This time round, Jack's been hiding in eastern Europe and is wanted by the CIA, represented by a grim-faced Benjamin Bratt. They all pitch up in London, where US president William Devane is having urgent talks with the British PM. But Jack has heard that the prez is about to be assassinated.
Can you bear the suspense? Well, the good news is that the 24 hours have been condensed into 12 episodes, so it might be worth a whirl. I said might.