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Toe-tapping sensation

WHEN Eamon de Valera evoked happy maidens dancing at the cross-roads back in 1943 he probably wasn't picturing the goldilocks-wig wearing contestants dancing frenetically at the 2011 Irish Dancing World Championships.

Indeed, there were times last night when I wondered: "Am I really watching Strictly Irish Dancing, a TV3 documentary about Irish Dancing? Or am I having an LSD-related seizure at the Leprechaun Museum?" And, later, after returning from the Leprechaun Museum and turning on my television, I wondered the same thing. But, to be fair, Strictly Irish Dancing didn't dwell on the outlandish costumes, and so, once my eyes adjusted, neither did I.

Irish Dancing has become an international diaspora-bonding competitive sport, and the boys and girls who participate are focused, athletic, high-achievers.

The programme-makers could, I suspect, have made a more exploitative documentary, focusing on precocious youngsters and more explicitly pushy parents, but instead they took a more naturalistic approach, following a handful of inspiring and serious-minded kids who happily explained some of the tricks of the trade (including the use of "sock glue" to keep wayward socks hoisted, and the application of a well-known fizzy beverage to make shoe-soles stickier).

But even so, as their friends, coaches and family members looked on eagerly, the pressure the dancers were under was also apparent. "It's very hard to be happy with second when you've had first for so long," said Claire Greaney, a youngster who has won the championship five times, and as the programme progressed the strain showed on the young dancers' faces. Meanwhile various dance icons and experts half-heartedly justified the intensity of the contest, although Riverdance alumni Breandan de Gallai did admit that the level of competition had "the potential to be quite unhealthy".

Of course, on the other hand, these kids are brilliant at what they do, and you have to applaud them for giving their lives focus and meaning. It's a far better use of time than loitering about with Fianna Failers at a crossroads.

Franklin and Bash of the legal-drama Franklin and Bash are a couple of handsome, frat-boy lawyers who call each other dude and frequently have beers in a hot tub with bikini wearing ladies. Generally they have the kind of funk-guitar-accompanied adventures that make 1980s crime shows like Simon and Simon and Magnum, PI seem, by contrast, as morally complex and multi-layered as The Wire.

In general, Franklin and Bash do not play by the rules. We know this because people are constantly approaching them saying things like: "I know that you [Bash] and Franklin bend the rules. I won't have it. Not on this case. The stakes are too high."

In return they say things like: "We're Franklin and Bash and nobody tells us what to do."

In tonight's episode, for example, Franklin and Bash get their boss off a murder charge by calling a corpse as a witness. Wacky Franklin and Bash!

"You are asking to bring a corpse into my courtroom?" says a weary judge on hearing their scheme.

"No, that would be ridiculous," says a deadpan Franklin.

"We want to bring the court to him," says a proud-of-himself Bash.

So the whole court goes down to the morgue. Now, being pedantic about this tactic for a moment, all they really needed to do was ask the coroner to come up to the court as an expert witness and they'd have saved time and tax-payers' money. But oh no, Franklin and Bash have to show off and make a mockery of US justice.

Anyway, I generally found myself empathising with all the fuddy-duddy characters who are infuriated and annoyed by Franklin and Bash.

And even though this programme seems to be gleefully aware of its own stupidity, being clever enough to know that you're stupid still means you're pretty stupid.