herald

Monday 15 October 2018

Sticking the word 'charity' on something is no excuse for terrible entertainment

OH LORD: RTE's celebrity boxing atrocity is sadly not the first time we have had absolute rubbish thrust upon us in the name of a good cause

I'm sure there's a lingering fear among professional TV critics such as our own Pat Stacey that programme-makers are cooking up a cunning ruse to provide themselves with the equivalent of Kevlar against the well-deserved barbs and brickbats which come their way on a regular basis, and that's the use of the word 'charity'.

The first programme to use the word in an upfront manner is RTE's latest summer atrocity, Charity Lords of the Ring, in which a few vaguely familiar faces make themselves even less familiar by donning protective headgear and beating the lard out of each other in a boxing ring.

It's not actually that bad an idea for a programme if truth be told (who doesn't want to see people you might not like getting a good thumping?) merely that the execution is shoddy in the extreme and the whole thing looks as cheap as chips.

Ah, but if it's for 'charity' then how could anyone possibly be mean about it?



grumbles

Quite simply, the fact that charitable causes may benefit financially from something is no excuse for bad television programmes...or rotten records.

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that there have been serious grumbles arising from previous RTE efforts Failte Towers and Celebrity You're a Star about just how much of the overall take went to the organisations nominated by individual contestants, the amount of cheap, cynical, schedule-filling tat provided by these shows is staggering.

We've had 'celebrities' running a hotel, dancing, singing, camping out in the wilds, working on a farm and managing GAA teams -- all shows of mind-boggling mediocrity, at best.

I'm sure most of those involved would point out that they're 'raising awareness' for their nominated organisation but given the relatively paltry sums which are raised surely they'd be better off doing volunteer work for the charity of their choice?

Back in 1984 Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas? genuinely struck a chord but it didn't take too long for people in the business to realise that latching on to baggage-free causes could help boost a flagging profile (spectacularly so in the case of the loathsome Queen at Live Aid, a band who'd played Sun City in apartheid South Africa rebooting their career off the bloated bellies of starving Africans -- now that's cynical) no matter how ropey the vehicle.

As charity records became more common, so the quality of the records deteriorated to the point where most were unlistenable.

Benefit records following the Bradford City fire in 1985 and the Zeebrugge ferry disaster in 1986 reached No1 in the UK but I'd wager they were never again heard on the radio once they dropped out of the charts.

Needless to say, over here we weren't slow in putting on our copycat hats, Paul Cleary even contributing the famine relief song Show Some Concern, but the nadir of Irish charity records came in 1986 to tie in with the ludicrous 'if only we had oul Live Aid over here' construct that was Self Aid, which was intended to, ahem, 'raise awareness' about the unemployment situation in Ireland.

Naturally this noble endeavour needed a theme tune and so we were forced to endure the dreadful Let's Make It Work on what seemed like an hourly basis on RTE radio.



nonsense

For those of you who are too young or too traumatised to recall this hellish ditty, it featured Christy Moore uttering the immortal lines "I can climb a pole/I can dig a hole" and while I'd certainly pay money to see Moore trying to climb a pole (the greasier the better) shelling out for this pile of nonsense was never an option.

A good cause is no excuse for bad art but if the lads in RTE are thinking ahead I'd like to take this opportunity to remind them that there are three years to go the 70th anniversary of the Bataan Death March.

For charity, of course.

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