herald

Monday 18 December 2017

All fired up by trash tv

US REALITY SHOW AMERICAN GUNS may BE GARBAGE -- BUT IT's slick and entertaining, says pat stacey

George Orwell knew the benefits of a bit of rubbish in a person's cultural diet. In his essay Good Bad Books, the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm extolled "the kind of book that has no literary pretensions but which remains readable when more serious productions have perished".

Orwell was writing in 1945. A modern example of the good bad book would probably be The Da Vinci Code. Frankly, I've read better-written cheques but as an entertaining page-turner with an ingenious plot, Dan Brown's bestseller is hard to beat.

And as Orwell pointed out, if we were all forced from the time we learned to read to consume nothing but good books, how would we ever learn to distinguish between the good stuff and the garbage?



Greasy

With television, of course, you can gorge on a diet of nothing but garbage, simply by skipping strategically between E!, Sky Living and ITV2, 3 and 4, with a quick detour to TV3 on Friday to catch Tallafornia.

Most of us, though, prefer our rubbish carefully rationed. Consider it the viewing equivalent of having a full, greasy fry-up every now and then to cleanse the palate of all that muesli and fruit.

By far the tastiest serving of TV cholesterol this week was the Discovery Channel's new reality series American Guns, which focuses on the Wyatt family, who operate the Gunsmoke gun shop in Colorado.

Patriarch Rich Wyatt is a gun expert and collector who runs classes teaching Gunsmoke's trigger-happy patrons how to use their weapons. Rich's wife Renee handles the accounts.

She can frequently be seen -- in stilted, semi-scripted segments -- berating her reckless husband for spending far too much of the company's funds on buying up vintage rifles and revolvers. In Wednesday's opener, Rich paid a Texas rancher $20,000 for six vintage Winchester rifles.

The Wyatt kids are Kurt, an engraver, instructor and sales associate, and Paige, Kurt's 17-year-old sister. Paige's job description is also sales associate, although her chief purpose in American Guns seems to be to sashay around in skimpy denim shorts, regularly loosing off a variety of large -- and dare one say rather phallic -- firearms.



EXCELLENT

American Guns is undoubtedly trash. But it's extremely slick trash, made with the kind of budget and visual verve more serious documentary-makers would love to have at their disposal.

Occasionally, a little fascinating historical material slips through, but American Guns never touches on the consequences of arming a civilian population to the teeth.

The emphasis is strictly on a fetishistic display of firepower as the Wyatts use any excuse to blast away at tin cans, jars, water-filled balloons and even the petrol tank of a motorcycle. The resulting destruction is captured in high-definition slow-motion.

Much as I hate to own up to it, watching inanimate objects being shot to pieces is a lot of fun. It takes quite a bit of skill to make TV this dumbly entertaining.

>FRANKLY SPEAKING The late Frank Carson's timing of a punchline, honed in tough working men's clubs, was excellent, even if the joke it was attached to was often older than the man telling it.

It's interesting to note that amid all the gushing tributes, only British newspaper The Guardian dared to recount an incident that illustrated Carson's less savoury side.

Arriving late for a performance at a miners' club, the comedian was asked by the club's Jamaican chairman where he'd been. Carson replied, "I am not speaking to you, you black b*****d."

Yup, it was the way he told 'em alright

>weak and feeble Some time in the far flung future, a television comedy historian will view episodes of The Republic of Telly on a dusty museum piece of a DVD player and wonder, "Was this really the best that RTE could manage after 50 years in the television business?"

But for now, I'm afraid all you've got is me. So -- is this really the best RTE can manage after 50 years in the television business? Dermot Whelan taking weak potshots at easy targets The Saturday Night Show and Tallafornia, like a kid firing sponge Nerf darts at a mattress?

Jennifer Maguire dressing up as a garda and hassling students in a feeble Candid Camera rip-off?

And the piece de resistance, a bunch of drunken culchies roaring F-words into the camera. It's as if Nighthawks never happened.

>turned off The much-hyped Netflix is a disappointment. When we were told €7 a month would buy unlimited access to films and TV programmes, we didn't know much of the content would be at least several years old.

Having taken out a month's paid subscription in the hope it would offer a better selection of up-to-date material than the free trial, I promptly cancelled. If this is the future, I think I'll stick with the present for now.

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