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Fatties giving up food is is fine...but lads quitting drink is a big TV turn-off

WE love makeover shows. Whether it's hideous houses or badly dressed women, there's nothing we like more than watching them transform.

When it's too close to the bone though, we're not so sure, and two shows currently running on RTE highlight the difference.

Operation Transformation is hugely popular, with almost half a million viewers following the fatties, including the rather portly Gerry Ryan, in their attempt to lose weight.

It is a massive success for the station (if not for all the losers) and there's a tad of schadenfreude in watching them pump iron and chomp lettuce from the safety of your sofa with a packet of HobNobs.

Contrast that with Stone Cold Sober -- another reality show involving six lads who decide to give up the jar.

It is getting lousy ratings in comparison, although both shows share high production values, good titling and voice-overs with personality-driven, likeable contributors.

It really should have people glued. Far more people in Ireland drink alcohol than are obese, and perhaps therein lies the reason.

We can have a laugh at people who need to lose weight -- we all could do with healthier lifestyles, so we might pick up a few tips.


Above all, it's a fun programme because there's lots going on. The message is that whether the exercise is a gym treadmill or running with the kids in the park, it doesn't matter -- you too can do this.

The foodie bits are interesting but you know you don't have to buy into the whole lentil thing to make a difference.

Stone Cold Sober is, in contrast, not about dealing with the lack of drink, it's about dealing with being bored.

The six lads involved are bored out of their skulls rather than p***ed out of them. It's not fun to watch because it reminds us that we too are dependent on drink to have a good time.

Perhaps not the two bottles of vodka and myriad pints that Pugs gets through every week, but Liam summed it up perfectly: "We get paid [from the dole] and we think: 'What'll we do?' We always go to the pub." So did everyone interviewed in the vox pop. Locals were hard pressed to think of anything else to do.

While Dr Eva and the fatties in Operation Transformation are having a laugh by hiding the chocolate bars or skydiving, the six boys are sitting dolefully around a pub table moaning about how bored they are.

So they organise a comedy festival, go on holiday, muck about on the beach -- but everyone around them is drinking all the time.

Giving up the drink means giving up the pub. It's the only way the lads can bear it. The consequence, for those of us without RTE producers lining up special events, is a deeply uncomfortable prospect. Possibly unthinkable.

Total sobriety is proving hard for the lads. But while two million people will hit the Operation Transformation website and thousands are joining the programme with the hapless contestants, you can be sure few are doing the same with the booze experiment.

The boys get into a bit of self-analysis at one point: they're not getting into trouble when they're drunk, so that's alright. It's the "I like being fat" argument. Denial is the first position of the Irish.

We have the second-highest alcohol consumption levels in the developed world, exceeding the European average by 20pc.


We have the fifth-highest rate of suicide within the 15-24 age group in the EU, and more crime than we can shake a stick at. They are not unrelated statistics.

If we're honest, most of us probably drink too much. We don't count the wine with dinner or the quick G&T before heading out. We ignore the single beer after work and if we're not 'getting drunk' it doesn't matter, does it?

We certainly don't want to see what we'd be like if we never had a drink at all -- and judging from the Carlow lads, you can't blame us. Festivals aside, they're a miserable Billy-no-mates lot.

So we'll stick with the designer message and pick off the bits we want. No point in telly making us face up to reality, now is there?