Friday, June 1, 2012

As Ireland Votes Away Even More of its Sovereignty...

...the Late Late Show celebrates fifty years broadcasting.

My non-Irish readers might not know about the Late Late Show. It is (I have just read) the longest-running TV chat show in the world. For almost forty years, with a brief hiatus, it was presented by one man, Gay Byrne, whose silky voice is deeply soothing and comforting, even if you think (as I do) that his influence on the nation has been a bad one. The Late Late Show served as something of a banner for the liberalisation of Ireland over the years, tackling "taboo" subjects and opening "debate".

At least, that's what they always say. I don't remember much of that myself. I don't even remember the famous show featuring Annie Murphy, the woman who had a child by Bishop Eamon Casey, triggering the first of the 1990's scandals featuring the Irish Catholic Church.

No, all I remember of the Late Late Show is lying on the couch or the sitting room floor on Friday nights, happy to have a weekend stretching before me, often drifting to sleep while the studio conversation formed pictures in my head. So even though the Late, Late Show was a harbinger of Modern Ireland, I very much associate it with the Ireland of my youth-- which was the very last dregs of Catholic, nationalist Ireland.

But it was more than that. Since the topics covered ranged from serious to light-- Ireland was still, at this time, a fairly cultured nation-- it gave me an impression of the wholeness of life, and made me think of Ireland as one big extended family. (Especially as my parents usually watched it-- that is, my mother never missed it and my father usually sat in to complain about the guests.)

I've barely watched it since I was a child, but I understood it has become as jazzy, slick and superficial as the Ireland it helped to create.

Will I watch the fiftieth anniversary edition tonight? You know, I feel half-tempted (an odd expression but sometimes the right one). At least it will keep me from thinking about the referendum.

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