'They're very different up north, everyone knows that'. I consoled myself with such a thought when watching the first episode of London Irish last week. The second episode of the Channel 4 'comedy' series airs tonight. I will not be watching it. London Irish is about four feckless young Northern Irish, two men and two women, who seem to spend their time avoiding sobriety and perpetuating stereotypes.
It is a show so devoid of character, so devoid of charm, so devoid of comedy that I felt for a moment ashamed to be Irish in London. The sole source of solace for me was that it was entirely composed of Northern Irish characters, and so any sense of shame would be far less for those of us from south of the border. However, it is a show that is so insipid that it should unite both Ireland's in disgust.
The writers of the show search for comedy through the perpetuation of stereotypes. The first stereotype is that the Irish are drunk, which as rationalism and empiricism proves, is hardly a stereotype without some concrete foundation, and throughout the show the four are either drunk or aiming to get drunk, although they are the kind of drunks most would want best avoid lest one wants the 'arse bored out of them'.
The second is that the Irish, particularly Irish men, are slightly mad. Connor (a character who camouflages into the scenery) wears his sister's dress so she can avoid an excess baggage charge and then refuses to take it off. Writers are best advised to avoid cliché, unless trite and trash are the words they want most in a review. That London Irish relied on a man wearing a woman's dress in its first episode implies an inauspicious future of poorly recycled ideas.
The third is that the Irish swear, a lot. Again, like the previous two, a stereotype with foundation. But as Graham Linehan, Arthur Matthews, and John and Martin McDonagh demonstrate, profanity can have great comedic and poetic import. Unfortunately, the writers of London Irish seem to think that constant f**ks and c**ts are funny. It would be a case of the law of diminishing returns, only if there were an initial return, there wasn't. The first c**t wasn't funny, neither was the tenth.
There are other stereotypes perpetuated, some specific to Northern Irish Catholics, such as being penny-pinchers and being still sour to Protestants, which is unfortunately another stereotype with much truth to it. There's also a stereotypical English chav character, Tyson, a male equivalent of Vicky Pollard, albeit much less funny.
However, the stereotypes, and their perpetuation, aren't where the offense should lie. After all, they aren't without foundation, and there is much in London Irish that reflects the Irish, both from the north and the south. And as Father Ted demonstrated, with the care and craft of talented writers who understand comedy, stereotypes can be both funny and inoffensive.
No, what should disgust the Irish the most is how dreadfully dull London Irish is. Not once did I laugh. Not once did I dare even raise a chuckle in sympathy. What's worse, I didn't care at all for any of the characters, neither the mean one, the stupid one, the well-meaning one, or the other stupid one.So devoid is the show of any degree of substance or complexity that to call it simple would be a disservice to the word. London Irish is boring, and for all what the Irish may or may not be guilty of, being boring is not one of them.