IT'S NOT a case of damning with faint praise to call Hardy Bucks the freshest Irish comedy in years, even if the oven from whence it came is not exactly chock full of warm, tasty morsels.
Writer-performers Martin Maloney, Chris Tordoff and Mike Cockayne's hilarious and perceptive mockumentary bears favourable comparison with anything being produced by the BBC or Channel 4 right now.
In fact, if viewers outside Scotland can appreciate Rab C Nesbitt -- and audiences in any part of Britain can find a single thing to laugh at in the hackneyed Mrs Brown's Boys -- there's no reason why the Bucks shouldn't export.
Series two finds Castletown's chief dreamer/loser Eddie Durkan (Maloney) and his mates still knocking around town doing lots of nothing much except drinking, while low-level gangster The Viper (Tordoff) continues to taunt him.
A visit to the employment centre, where Eddie cites his CV as "singer, performer and race-car driver", results in him and buddy French Toast O'Toole (Peter Cassidy) landing and then losing a job killing rats, which leads to another binge, which in turn leads to the best scene: an ill-advised trip to an AA meeting, where Eddie sends the other attendees spiralling into cravings with his long, sensuous description of the joys of drink.
It was in terrible taste (there'll probably be a smattering of complaints from those who think alcoholism should never be a laughing matter) and very, very funny. It all ended with Eddie being carted off to hospital to have his stomach pumped and French Toast voluntarily depositing the contents of his on the pavement.
Pathos and humour are a winning combination when mixed in the right quantities, and Hardy Bucks gets the mix just right.
It might be exaggerated but there a lot of uncomfortable truths about the tedium of modern small-town life lurking among the plentiful laughs.
There weren't many laughs, although still a lot to ridicule, in the concluding part of Crisis: Inside the Cowen Government.
This wasn't quite as startlingly outrageous as the first instalment, mainly because the events that led to Fianna Fail's general election meltdown -- the bailout fiasco, the surrendering of sovereignty, Cowen's nasally congested Morning Ireland interview et al -- are so well known.
Yet it was telling to hear Mary Hanafin and Willie O'Dea still blithely using that toxic phrase "in the interest of the party".
With very few exceptions, the FF talking heads featured across the two episodes have unwittingly done such a spectacularly good job of burying themselves with their words that they could profitably hire out their mouths as diggers.
Like fine wine and smelly cheese, Never Mind the Buzzcocks improves with age.
It was fitting that the first show of the 25th series was guest-hosted by the wonderful Alice Cooper, a great rock survivor who emerged victorious from a long battle with the bottle and continues to make terrific music.
Oh, and he's a genuinely nice guy too (my daughter, a huge fan who's met him twice, can testify to that). This was a sparkling way to kick off a new run.
It's a valid complaint to say there are too many panel shows on TV but Buzzcocks is one I could watch all night.
There were tears all round in Coronation Street -- or at least all round Chesney's round little face -- as Schmeichel the Great Dane went to the great kennel in the sky.
Since Schmeichel was probably the least active TV pet since Bagpuss, being required to do little but pant and drool, playing dead was a doddle.
Poor Chesney, though. First he has to have his dog put down, then dim sister Fiz rings to say she's getting out of prison.
Is there no end to the torments of this boy's life?
hardy bucks HHHHI crisis: inside the cowEn government HHHII never mind the buzzcocks HHHHI coronation streeT HHHII