Since I got tired of wargaming, I've been spending Monday evenings at home and watching TV I'd never seen before.
Which is how I'm getting to see Pat Kenny's The Front Line, or rather how I'm getting to see about twenty minutes of it before I remember that after a 20 per cent pay cut I probably can't afford to replace the TV every week and so I'm going to need to change channels before I actually jump up and head butt the screen so hard I wind up wearing the Sony like a toilet seat round the neck of some cartoon character. If it doesn't do anything else it might eventually drive me back to wargaming, because it's getting so that being furious with losing isn't as bad in my memory as the the red mist that I get from watching Front Line, or as it should probably be called, Ireland's most annoying whiners.
I was pitching the theory to John the other night that The Front Line existed because Joe Duffy has always hated Pat Kenny and wanted to make him look like a fool, so he pitched the idea in the RTE canteen one morning that what Pat should do was run his own version of Liveline or whatever it is that Joe Duffy's morning moan-fest is called. John riffed on it beautifully, suggesting that the actual pitch would have been for Joe to say "You know what I always wanted to do? Do Liveline late at night on the TV." Which I agree, is much more subtle. However it happened, Pat's run with the idea, and there he is with his very own live line clone on TV.
Dear, suffering, holy, god almighty tonight, it's enough to make you despair of the ability of the average Irish person to buy a bus ticket without a UN peacekeeping force to handle the complex paperwork and fraught commercial negotiations. You've got a studio audience full of people who volunteered to be on the show. As you can imagine, the kind of people who volunteer to be on the audience of a TV show devoted to grilling politicians for getting things wrong - well, you're not moved to volunteer because you've no strong feelings about anything. It would be easy to single out some of the whingers for detailed excoriation, but it doesn't feel entirely fair, even though I've never managed to watch the show for more than twenty minutes without conceiving the visceral urge to go down to Montrose and beat at least one specific individual until I died of exhaustion.
Despite all that, it's fairer to generalise. And in general the vocal part of the audience of The Front Line consists entirely of a selected band of cretins who will reliably advance the same set of moronic opinions each week:
1. The government should take personal responsibility for every single thing that ever happens and collectively resign en masse every time anyone stubs a toe, fails to win the lottery or overhears something which hurts their feelings
2. Nothing that happens is ever the fault of "ordinary decent people"
3. Everything that happens is the cause of deep anger in the overwhelming majority of the population. Bonus points if you can get two consecutive speakers to announce that two diametrically opposed things are both unanimously opposed by everyone. Bonus points are awarded no later than fifteen minutes into every damn show
4. The government should pick up the tab for every trifling need of every single citizen
5. No citizen should actually pay taxes
6. No service, of any kind, should attract any form of charge
7. Everyone should be paid more than the average wage, because we're all entitled to loads of money
8. Everyone should be paid less than the average wage, because we need to be more competitive
9. Notwithstanding 2. above, there would be no problems at all in Ireland if people just took responsibility for looking after things like they used to back in the good old days
If for any reason the audience forgets its responsibilities, there's almost invariably some invited guest who can be depended on to say something which would give any reflective person an aneurysm. It's hard, sometimes, to believe that we live in a world where you go on the TV and announce you're an expert in something that hasn't traditionally had professional certification, and the very worst you can expect to happen is that they'll give you an appearance fee. I'm still waiting for the moment when the host of these lunkfests turns around to one of these walk-on opinion-wranglers and says "So, Mr Leotard, you claim to be an expert in the challenging field of prospering in a collapsing economy. Just how much money have you personally made other than through selling gullible people dumb ideas you haven't been stupid enough to try yourself?" or "So, Dr Ludaramaun, you claim to be an expert in disaster recovery technology. How many lives have you actually saved in the course of your long and successful career as a superhero?"
Brain exploded yet? Mine usually has by this stage.
The thing which makes it clear that this is actually Joe Duffy's subtle revenge on Pat Kenny - doubtless Pat squatted on something important to Joe, like the Late Late Show or something - is that as the season has rolled on, the audience has got progressively more likely to include at least one mouth-breathing redneck under-achieving cretin who will bring his intervention around to everyone's favourite, an unfocused rant about how "ordinary decent people" are getting shafted while the government cossets druggies and pikeys and immigrants and so on and so on. Now when Joe gets that on the radio, they just hang up the phone and say something like "Whoops, we seem to have lost the connection". When Pat gets that, he's stuck with it. It's live TV, and the goon's physically there. They can take the camera off him, but they can't actually gag him. And no amount of audience-screening is going to protect Pat from this. Joe can have his researchers chat away to the phone-callers for a couple of minutes to decide whether they're going to be a disgrace, but Pat has the clown show bussed in hours ahead of time and it's no struggle for them to put up a facade of calm till their moment in the spotlight. It was kind of hilarious when some maniac spoke for us all and ripped into Pat for telling everyone else they should accept less pay and benefits while he got paid sixty times what someone on benefits can hope for. But when every week you can be sure that you're going to get the kind of bigot - well let's put it this way; a lot of these guys, if they were in a taxi, after three minutes the driver would stop and refuse to move until they got out.
Yep, getting beat stupid by my friends is starting to look more inviting every week.