Television: Straight from the big craic handbook of cliches
‘London Irish’ and ‘Damo & Ivor’ scraped the barrel of laughs – but ‘The IT Crowd’ finale rebooted the genre
Drinking-up time: Packy (Peter Campion), Bronagh (Sinead Keenan), Niamh (Kat Reagan) and Conor (Kerr Logan) in ‘London Irish’
Probably the most irritating thing about London Irish (Channel 4, Tuesday) is that it isn’t funny, which isn’t ideal when it’s labelled as comedy. Well, that and the bitter, mean-minded national stereotyping.
The central characters are four twentysomethings from Northern Ireland living in London, and they are pissed-up Paddies straight out of the big craic handbook of cliches: wacky Conor (Kerr Logan), aggressive Bronagh (Sinéad Keenan), sensible Packy (Peter Campion) and dim Niamh (Kat Reagan). The episode began in a pub with the four, all drunk, discussing the differences between British and Irish attitudes to alcohol. “They drink until they’re drunk. We drink until we’re sober,” said Packy. Then Conor wet himself and it was time to go home.
It got even less funny from there. There were “jokes” at the expense of a disabled man, epic cursing, general waster activity and dialogue of such unpleasant idiocy – “Packy, how many times a day do you shite?” – that after a while the only sound you could hear was that of Lisa McGee, the Derry-born writer of London Irish, scraping the bottom of the barrel in a desperate attempt to shock. You’d be offended by the stereotyping if you weren’t so bored.
Another crime against comedy, Damo & Ivor (RTÉ Two, Monday), continued its long run; six episodes is long when everything after the first five minutes of last week’s opener made the programme feel like an eternity.
Written by and starring Andy Quirke, it’s based on two Dublin caricatures: Damo, a thick northside tough; and Ivor, a thick southside poshie. They are twins (Quirke plays both) separated at birth. Damo has been brought up by his granny (Ruth McCabe), a prostitute – “Ah, Grano, you haven’t been sucking mickey for money.” Ivor has been raised in suburban splendour by his filthy-rich adoptive parents. His dad is played by Rik Mayall, a choice that reflects Damo & Ivor’s obviously generous budget – it’s a slick production with funding from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland – rather than anything Mayall, always a hammy actor (from his Young Ones days on), might bring to the tedious party.
The main characters are cartoonish – Damo’s baseball cap has an oversized peak, and Ivor wears huge turned-up collars – but the storylines are standard sitcom, so the tone is strangely jarring. Without a single humorous line that might gel the thing together, it’s excruciating.
Damo and Ivor first appeared on YouTube, in amusing musical parodies, and then in sketches for RTÉ’s Republic of Telly, but spinning out a three-minute video into three hours of TV takes more than this thin, ill-conceived script can offer.
Last night Graham Linehan served up a masterclass in comedy in the final, slightly out-of-nowhere episode of The IT Crowd (Channel 4, Friday), the last run of which finished in 2010.