Earlier this week, Channel 4 took a bucket of outraged slack for their plans to launch a new sitcom entitled “Hungry”, described as “Shameless, but set in the Irish Famine”. Like far too many others, I immediately spat bile in every direction, calling it an appalling idea for a dozen reasons (which may not have been clear at the time, but I’ll try to clarify them a wee bit). The counter-backlash was also fairly immediate, with more than a few adhering to the Parker/Stone credo that “if anything is ok to be made fun of, everything is”. On reflection, they’re absolutely right. No cow should be too sacred, no topic too dangerous to be covered by satirists. But there remain a few things that really unsettle me about this show, and this seems the better venue for airing them.
Firstly, despite giving less than one metric microfuck about nationalism or enmity with our closes neighbours (and let’s face it, big sister), I don’t think it’s up to the perpetrators of a crime to decide when it’s funny. The writer of the show may be Irish, but he’s being funded and produced by a UK broadcaster. Does this mean that the jokes would be fine if they were coming from inside the Republic? I honestly don’t know, but I’d certainly feel a lot better about it if they were coming from anywhere other than Britain.
More importantly than who’s supplying the laughs, who are they laughing at? Consider for a minute that the UK has recently seen an influx of Irish immigrants. Consider the ongoing rise of UKIP/BNP versus “them coming over here and taking our jobs”, which is ostentatiously about those from further afield, but has in the past been squared right at the Irish. Consider also the current representations of the Irish in British TV, namely Mrs Brown’s Bullshit and Chris “Ardal” O’ Dowd. Can anyone out there give me an example of an Irish character in a UK tv show that’s credible and intelligent? If the answer’s no, does the phrase “shameless in the famine” not immediately conjure the possibility that maybe we’re being lined up to laugh at not just starving Irish plebs but DRUNKEN starving Irish plebs? Is there maybe a pattern emerging of depictions of the Irish being a bit familiar and more than a bit unpleasant?
All this aside, I think it’s fairly clear that Channel 4 are happy to rely on the free advertising that usually comes with the clamouring petition-signers. I also reckon that’s because they don’t believe in the quality of the comedy to stand up without help from a bit of social media outrage. Am I expecting the new father ted? Am I fuck.