Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Late night TV in Ireland (Part 1) - PlayTV

Welcome to the first posting on the SWEETSHOP, which I intend to use as a forum for semi-insane rants, musical links and (quite probably) deluded opinions on the state of the world; All this from an increasingly grumpy, recently-made-unemployed, 30-something, Dubliner.

Having, of late, found myself thrust into redundancy, by the company I had served with very occasional diligence, sometimes downright indolence, for 12 years (no - I am not at all bitter!), I seem to have developed some form of insomnia, so often find myself channel-flicking on TV at 2 a.m.+

Of all of the horrors encountered on Ireland's high-class late night televisual offerings, the most stupifying, yet strangely addictive, must be TV3's PlayTV - a late night quiz/game show which preys, like a horde of rotten vultures/hyenas on the stupid, the aged and the vulnerable.

Hoi! I'm (quite liderally) the smarmy wanker from PlayTV. Laydeez - you can look, but don't touch, unless you're 'liderally' asked to do so, at the 'penultimate point'...

The premise is fairly simple - viewers call in to answer the puzzle that appears on screen. The big catch is that each call costs approximately 1.50 Euros and the callers have no guarantee that they will find 'that one Open Line' to get through to the studio. This usually results in individual competitions continuing for 2-3 hours at a time, with (surprise, surprise) no caller managing to find the mysterious 'Open Line', until the very end, while the gurning, sleazy, media-studies graduates who present it, drag the show on with sickening, patronising, urgent requests to viewers, bellowing scripted lines like:-

"Really need your calls RIGHT NOW (almost in the manner of Geldof pleading for famine relief during Live Aid) - the producer is telling me we need to end this game; need to close the studio! We have to shut it down... NOW!"

"This is 'quite literally' the 'last MOMENT' on this competition"

"You may be tired, I know it's late, but I really need to give this money away. Think of what you can 'quite literally' do with the 750 EUR on offer? You know what??? Even though the producers are going to 'quite literally' kill me... I'm going to put the prize money up to 900 EUR. Think of what you could do with that kind of money (quite literally)... "

My suggested response to the last one would be:- "For 750 Euro, I could hire 3 thugs from Finglas to track you down and break your fecking legs, you morality-free, total piece of shite..."

Anyhoo, back to the game format - the trick they seem to use is to start with an easy question, with a few callers in the first 30 minutes who mysteriously manage to get through to the 'open line' in the studio with consumate ease, and a 250 EUR prize, which is always 'quite literally' won - normally by an elderly-sounding lady, e.g. Mary in Tipperary, who seems to have hearing difficultes, and has probably already just about reached her regulated 80 EUR limit in calls on that night.

Presenter: "Mary - It is a tough one - it's 'quite literally' not at all easy... think of an animal beginning with 'D' ending with 'G' ?
3 letters, if that helps?..."

Helloooo? I'm only on a non-contributary pension and I just spent all my savings on a hip-replacement, but is the answer 'Dog' by any chance?.

After that, the next game will normally continue into perpetuity, with nobody finding the non-existent 'Open Line', but with the prize money increasing incrementally to, close to, or under 2,500 EUR. Meanwhile they rake in the money on the callers who consistently can't seem to find that elusive 'open line'.

As things continue, the scumbag presenters introduce innumerable on-screen countdowns, designed to indicate to the viewer that the golden prize is 'quite literally' slipping from their grasp:

"Call us NOW! We only have 90 seconds left on this game. I know it's you! I know you have the answer. You deserve this money!"

These presenter countdowns occasionally are 'minute/second' based but often deal in a 'previously-unknown-to-science' unit of measurement known as 'MOMENTS'; Not sure what Einstein would think of this innovation? In truth, this is a scam they use to get around the media regulator.

Presenter: "We only have 10 MOMENTS left on this game"

Presenter (2 hours later) "We only have 'quite literally' moments left now - you really need to call"

"Ooooh, Matron! I'm an utterly tedious, annoying asshole who gets paid to behave like this for a living.

This magnificent production comes from the same people who had a late-night game show shut down on ITV (hosted, as I recall, by unctuous, professionally effeminate, 'annoying-as-pubic-lice' Big Brother winner - Brian Dowling), following the revelation that they ran a competition asking for guesses regarding what a woman would typically have in her handbag. They encountered some trouble when some of their 'answers' were revealed as:


'Rawl plugs'

Now 'Rawl Plugs' is fair enough - I can imagine the independent, modern woman carrying them around, to get some drill-based DIY done at the weekend. However, 'Balaclava' is a completely different matter, unless the question-setters were looking in the handbags of the 'very late' Ulrike Meinhof or hideous northern ireland nutcase - Continuity IRA moll - Bernadette Sands McKevitt.

Balaclava babes on heat...

Back to the concept of 'Moments' - in the context of this show, a 'Moment' can last anything from 5 seconds to 5 minutes (quite literally), so the presenter summons a throbbing numerical icon onto the screen to indicate that the game will end in (quite literally) 10 'Moments' and the 'Moment clock' begins to tick in a descending manner. You can put the kettle on, take the dog for a walk, pleasure yourself (twice), or someone else (once), shave your back, mow the lawn, run a mini-marathon, drink 10 shots of Jaagermeister/fall asleep, wake up, then take a bath/shower, do the ironing, yet still be assured that the 'moment clock' will be hovering betwen zero and three, once you get back to it.

Often the quiz questions/answers verge on the ludicrous - "Name an animal beginning with 'C'. The 'correct' answer is normally something along the lines of 'Chinese Giant Salamander'. In the meantime, thousands of suckers are trying to find the 'Open Line' with guesses of 'Cat' or 'Cheetah', reeling in tens of thousands each night for the production company and the beleagured TV3.

Presenter: "Sorry caller - it's not cat; great, great guess though. You're on the right track. We may have had that already, 'quite literally'. Very close - please try again! "

The true 'jewels in the crown' of this show are the curiously embarassed? presenters (whom I suspect are paid so little that they are secretly signing on the dole, disguised in Jackie Kennedy Onassis headscarves and sunglasses, using ID they have stolen from people in homeless shelters), but I'll save my comments on them for another day...

Recommended Youtube musical link of the day is:

This is the excellent, relatively unknown, King Khan, with the Shrines, blowing out 'Welfare Bread' in a Toronto record store. And no, he is not the illegitmate son of Little Richard!

The tune to me, initially sounds a bit like it's ripping off Van Morrison's 'Domino', but is delivered with a sense of ease and fun which, I suspect, Van would never be capable of ...

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