Who'd have thought the Irish drink so much? Everyone, actually
Des Bishop: if he stood back from the obvious and really explored the why of what he was seeing, Under the Influence might have been more enlightening
TELEVISION:The stand-up routines were a treat, but Des Bishop brought little new to the subject of drinking in Ireland
With his short back and sides, buttoned-up shirt and scrubbed face, there was something of the missionary about Des Bishop in Under the Influence (RTÉ One, Thursday). And it wasn’t just the way the comedian looked. He doesn’t drink alcohol – hasn’t since his problem drinking at 19 encouraged him to go sober – and with the shouty zeal of the convert he seems convinced that “the Irish” cannot drink in moderation and that everyone is busy being a stereotypical drunken Paddy.
No one would deny there is an alcohol problem. And few don’t already know that below-cost selling, widespread availability, pervasive advertising and sponsorship, and our cultural tolerance of problem drinking are all to blame.
Bishop explored all these issues in his series – without bringing much new to the subject – but where the message became difficult to listen to was in its endless, blanket blame: all those sweeping statements, both from him and from his fellow-comedian contributors, that began with “the Irish are . . .” and “Irish people drink . . .”, as if we are all staggering around our towns and cities at 4am.
“Because for the Irish, a blackout is a destination at the end of a night’s drinking”: it’s the sort of glib line that works in a stand-up routine but reduces the credibility of a series purporting to look seriously at a difficult subject.
Bishop got stuck in among the crowds during Arthur’s Day. He’s not the first to think we’ve been had by clever marketers about that one, but his style is to proclaim things as if he’s the first to think them.
He went out with an ambulance crew on a Saturday night in Temple Bar and, guess what, saw a lot of drunk punters. And, yes, all advertising is designed to get us to consume more of a product. If he stood back from the obvious and really explored the why of what he was seeing, Under the Influence might have been more enlightening.
Bishop’s comedy routines, which featured in each programme, were very funny, though, and while so much of the series was watchable, the often smug, preachy tone was hard to take.
When a TV thriller revolves around a terrorist threat and a British secret service man’s lone mission to unravel the deadly plot, you’d expect cracking dialogue, fast action and at least one macho shoot-out. So Complicit (Channel 4, Sunday), written by Guy Hibbert, was an unusual type of drama. Once you accepted that everything was going to unfold quietly, at a nothing-much-happens pace – Complicit’s low ratings suggest it was bit too slow and long for a Sunday night – then every minute was absorbing, piecing more of the jigsaw together.