Thin script, blue gags and pure ego
What was clever O'Carroll thinking when he wrote Mrs Brown's Boys?
We don't cover repeats in this column unless a) we unwittingly overlooked a programme the first time around, or b) because it's exceptional and merits a special mention.
Mrs Brown's Boys, Brendan O'Carroll's pilot for an upcoming new sitcom, ticks both boxes. It slipped beneath our radar when it was shown earlier this year and it certainly is exceptional -- as in exceptionally awful.
O'Carroll is a member of Mensa, the high IQ society. Watching Mrs Brown's Boys, I couldn't help idly wondering about how much of his vast brainpower he used to write it: 0.0000001pc, maybe? A little less than that?
And can you imagine what the end result would be if he pressed another brain cell or two from that gleaming dome of his into service?
Well, keep imagining, because Mrs Brown's Boys, taped before a raucous studio audience and culled, presumably, from various bits of O'Carroll's stage shows, pitches itself at the lowest common denominator.
More a glorified cabaret than a sitcom (O'Carroll frequently steps out of character and, at one point, breaks the 'fourth wall' by walking around the camera crew and on to another part of the set), Mrs Brown's Boys is like something left over from the 1970s, but with extra layers of puerile innuendo and more F-words than a Fianna Fail poster campaign.
It seems redundant, at this point, to accuse O'Carroll of being nothing more than a peddler of low-grade smut who patronises his predominantly working-class audience with the spurious argument that he's simply giving people who don't go to the theatre or to stand-up gigs what they like.
What's most offensive about Mrs Brown's Boys is not the wafer-thin scripts, the avalanche of blue gags or O'Carroll's presumption that the audience are morons who lead to be led by the nose to a punchline -- it's the fact that the whole thing is an exercise in unrestrained ego.
There's a larger cast than you normally find in a 30-minute, studio-bound comedy, yet the other characters are little more than cardboard cut-outs, there simply to act as sounding boards for O'Carroll's gags.
At the end of it, O'Carroll leads the cast back on to the set for an old-fashioned theatrical curtain call, but it's painfully obvious that there's only one person you're supposed to be watching.
There are six more episode of Mrs Brown's Boys, a co-production between BBC Scotland, RTE and O'Carroll's own production company, due in 2011. Consider this a public service announcement.
If you've been reading the newspapers, you may already know the outcome of the third and final part of Lost Land of the Tiger.
There ARE wild tigers living in the remote kingdom of Bhutan, and they're thriving at altitudes of 4,000 and higher --a discovery that means decades of science textbook teaching, which claimed that the creatures could never survive in such conditions, will now have to be revised.
Yet not even that knowledge could detract from the sheer thrill, the breathtaking emotional punch, of seeing the discovery unfold on television.
Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, who'd spent much of the four-week expedition gasping for breath in freezing cold conditions, got the first glimpse.
The motion-sensor cameras he'd placed at strategic points captured more than 30 video images of tigers majestically roaming the mountains. "Oh, my gosh!" he gasped, head buried in hands. "I don't believe it! Oh, God. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Lost Land of the Tiger is the kind of thing the medium of television was invented for. The fact that it's been drawing a viewing audience of five million in Britain alone bodes well for the future of quality programming, as well as the tiger.