Got a problem Dublin teenager? Give them the ‘culchie’ cure
‘Raised by the Village’ stages an agricultural intervention into the lives of two unruly teens
Leah from Lucan could represent Ireland in the Olympics of withering disdain
Your children are out of control, Jackeens! Leave it to us culchies to put some manners on them.
So the logic goes behind Raised by the Village (RTÉ One, Monday, 6.30pm), a TV franchise from reality programming giant Endemol which stages an intervention into the lives of two unruly Dublin teens and whisks them away from their smart phones and junk food to a no-nonsense rural farm for some tough love, home cooking and unpaid labour.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” says a cheery voice over against jaunty music, “but can a village save one?” These are the patronising steps you must endure, I guess, before you can send your kids away to brat camp.
The youngsters we meet are Leah from Lucan, a girl who could represent Ireland in the Olympics of withering disdain, railing continually against the cruel fate of not being born a Kardashian. Leah is addicted to fashion, beauty treatments and her smart phone. In short, she is a teenager.
The other is Scott, a maths whizz, music whizz and sports whizz who refuses to go to school and is snarky with his mother. Both of our candidates for reform are missing a parent; Leah’s step-father died tragically some years ago, leaving the family reeling, while Scott’s father isn’t around: “I don’t remember my dad’s face,” he tells the camera, in rapid agitation. “I don’t care about him, he obviously doesn’t care about me.”
Takes a child to raze a village
Things will be much different on the farm, the show insists, laying on glowing depictions of rural camaraderie, rosily unbroken homes, and encomiums to the power of good, honest, old-fashioned work. “He just needs to know that there’s more to life than being a waster,” we hear at the Carrigallen farm of Richard Nixon (not that one). “There’s more to life than just a mobile phone,” says stern Jennifer Hurley in Kildorrery, Co Cork. Against such self-assured corrective parenting, I began to root instinctively for the corrupting powers of our errant Dubliners.
After all, they say it takes a child to raze a village.
Alas, the treatment is both cruel and effective. Deprived of her smartphone, a clearly distressed Leah is put to work in the kitchen, the chicken coop and a donkey sanctuary, meeting her match for humiliating zingers in Jennifer: “You’re living in Cloud Cuckoo Land, my dear lady!” Ouch!
Scott, subjected to a diet that includes fruit and vegetables, and given a strict routine that makes use of his unusually focussed mind, thrives in the peace and quiet of Leitrim. “The only problem with him is he’s from Dublin,” jokes the farm’s Chrisdina, and if there is any other spectrum of behavioural problems nobody mentions them.
Instead, an invigilating psychologist encourages the kids in their turnaround while mildly rebuking their parents for being rubbish. The country families, wholesome and perfect throughout, swell in their affection and, by the end, everyone is sorry to see them leave.
Three months later, the kids are still golden, now deprogrammed, straightened up, flying right and generally not resembling Dublin teenagers. Do you detect a faintly anti-urban prejudice here? Get right out of town!