Saturday 24 February 2018

Last Night's TV: Hen Nights

Diarmuid Doyle was disappointed to find the shenanigans all very tame on TV3’s ‘expose’

"You can still have a good time without excessive drinking", TV3’s continuity announcer reminded us before Hen Nights, the first of a two-part documentary series featuring Irish women excessively drinking and having a good time.

What he was really suggesting, of course, was: “stick with us: we have strippers, good girls gone bad and more bad behaviour than you can shake a stick at”. It’s an old trick of the television trade at this stage: hint sorrowfully at the terrible shenanigans to come so that the viewer will not be tempted to switch off.

As it happened, the shenanigans were all very tame.

Although at least one of the participants may have woken up this morning wondering why she ever agreed to be filmed dirty dancing with an inflatable doll made up like her absent fiancé, there was nothing particularly shocking on view.

Anybody who’s walked around Temple Bar, or Kilkenny or Galway on weekend nights knows what hen parties are like.

They’re loud and raucous, and you wouldn’t want to be in the same pub unless you were just as drunk as the people attending them, but they’re hardly the unsolved mystery TV3 seemed to be suggesting.

All we really saw last night was three groups of people having a good time in a variety of ways. Unsurprisingly, it all got a bit tedious by the end.

The producers did very well to get six Irish hen parties (the other three are on tonight) to agree to be filmed in such an up close and personal way but then clearly felt obliged to feature them all when there was really very little to some of them.

They made a crucial error – they promised more than they delivered.

For example, the first group we saw last night included Darina, the bride to be, and her two chief bridesmaids Claire and Tara, who were also organising the hen night. “If a stripper came in, she’d walk out the door”, one of them said about Darina.

In a good programme about hen nights, that would have been a cue for a stripper to show up and Darina to flee her own party in tears. But there was no stripper, no dramatic departures, just a very well organised night out featuring a nice dinner and a burlesque party.

More promising on the shenanigans front were bride-to-be Lorraine Byrne and her friends, who headed off to Liverpool for their hen night.

We first caught sight of the entire group as they marched through Dublin airport chanting: “Cock A Doodle Do, Any Cock Will Do”, a chant they took up again later on in a Merseyside pub and which was enough to drive at least one terrified male drinker away.

They did a bit of karaoke, a male stripper dressed as Tom Cruise in Top Gun waggled his bits in Philomena’s face and everybody got very drunk. But again it was hardly television gold – or even television bronze.

Neither was there anything particularly memorable about the third party, for soldier Philomena Byrne, which featured an assault course in Lough Key Forest Park and a bit of a night out afterwards.

Everybody seemed very nice, but it was hard to figure out why exactly their drinking session was being featured on the telly.

Much the same could be said about Stephen Fry’s 100 Greatest Gadgets, a three-hour long geek fest which was Channel 4’s bank holiday offering across the water.

One Hundred Greatest.. lists have been a staple of British television for at least a decade and they are often very good, mixing nostalgia, humour and intelligent comment in equal measure.

Last night’s effort suggested that the concept might finally be losing its lustre. Despite the wide variety of chatty guests (including actor Hugh Bonneville, who knows a thing or two about gadgets) it was very hard going.

For example, the list, which seems to have been compiled exclusively by Fry, featured, from Number 69 to 65, the microscope, the fan, the hearing aid, the pager and the word processor.

There is no guest list in the world that could make that group of items interesting, and the programme had run out of steam long before its allotted time.

It didn’t help that, according to Fry, the greatest gadget ever is the cigarette lighter, a choice so eccentric it rendered the whole programme meaningless.

There is no gadget for scraping the bottom of a barrel, apparently. But who needs one when you have programmes like this?

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