Monday 23 October 2017

REVIEW: Savage Eye needs to take a look at itself

David McSavage
David McSavage

Pat Stacey

David McSavage specialises in rattling establishment cages. That's what good satirists are supposed to do, and when McSavage is at his very best, he's an excellent satirist. RTE is to be commended for allowing him to bite the hand that feeds him without that hand also slapping him down. The ghost of Dermot Morgan must be looking on enviously.

But in the fourth series of The Savage Eye -- which, in a first for RTE, was made available to watch online for a full week before last night's broadcast -- the noise of cages being rattled frequently drowned out the laughs.

McSavage is in danger of being typecast as the angry-at-everyone man who indiscriminately lobs around grenades of spectacular viciousness.

Sometimes -- brilliantly -- they leave their deserving targets in shreds; at other times they simply leave the viewer baffled. Brilliance lost out to bafflement last night.

As ever, there was a theme: how awful it is to be a child born in Ireland. Abortion hypocrisy was nailed in an advert for "Terminal Ferries -- 50pc off with a certified suicide attempt".

Breast-feeding propaganda got a lash. Breast-fed babies grow up to be tall, athletic, Dublin 4 master race types; bottle-fed ones end up as short-arsed losers.

Joe Duffy was deeply upset last year by the programme's portrayal of him as a weirdo clad in S&M leather who becomes sexually aroused by Liveline callers whinging down the phone. This year's Joe is less extreme: a Nosferatu-like vampire who feeds off the sound of callers crying.

Ironically, the funniest sketches were the ones that had little to do with the theme. Hector O hEochagain ambushing his imaginary friend from childhood -- "Stop imagining me!" -- was good for a giggle, but the standout was Daniel Day Lewis, part-time cobbler, taking a method approach to making shoes.

McSavage is back...

A customer complains that the bespoke shoes he's bought are pinching. "Which foot?" asks Day Lewis. "My left foot," says the customer, which sends Day Lewis swooning to the floor in full-on Christy Brown mode. This stuff was fresh and hilarious, but the recurring characters have become a burden.

McSavage's President for Ireland sketches are pure dead weight. Signature character Mick 'The Bull' Daly, whose bigoted rants shake the bar, leeringly talking about how he "rode the wife while she was giving birth", was more grotesque than funny.

Ridiculing Pat Kenny's TV style wasn't amusing when Mario Rosenstock did it, and it's no more amusing when McSavage does it, while an odd sketch featuring a foul-mouthed Goth newsreader with a knife sticking out of her head was so far out there that whatever point it was making was lost.

Chris Morris's superb Brass Eye takedown of the ridiculous, media-led hysteria over paedophiles, made in 1997 but not shown until 2001, comprehensively proved that any subject, no matter how sensitive or controversial, is ripe for satirising if it's done with wit, intelligence, care and a clear sense of purpose.

But even Morris would have trouble justifying last night's Savage Eye sketch featuring young children.

A little boy talked about cutting off someone's genitals and shoving them in his mouth, while a little girl describes how she'd "rip the foetus" out of a woman's belly and wear it as a hat. It was bizarre, disturbing and it smeared anything good that had come before it.

I hope McSavage rediscovers the right balance. At a time when Republic of Telly is the most-watched home-produced comedy on TV and its mediocrity is rewarded by handing two of its team the 2fm breakfast show, we need him. But we don't need him like this. HHIII

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