Sunday, 11 January 2015

Famine Sitcom

When I first heard that Channel 4 was supposed to be commissioning a sitcom set in the Irish famine I thought it was disgraceful and insulting. I was listening to The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTE radio 1 before writing this and he had a discussion with two men from both sides of the argument, for and against. I don't know the name of the historian that was against it but his argument against it was valid, pointing out as an example the story of a woman trying to escape to a better life who was refused entry to a ship in Limerick docks because a child had a disease that the child, and subsequently the mother eventually succumbed to. Also that it would still touch a nerve here and asking the question how can you make a sitcom out of something so serious. Myles put the point to him about free speech and the guy understood but said if it is made he won't be watching it, although at the same time he wouldn't be for violent protest or placarding the station either as people have the right to free speech.
On the other side of the argument was Blind Boy from the Rubber Bandits. He pointed out Jonathan Swift's satire "A Modest Proposal". He said it was written shortly before an earlier famine (not THE famine) and was a scathing swipe at the British upper class and British foreign policy and their attitudes towards the Irish (which was a major contributor to famine here). Blackadder's series set during WW1 also satirised the incompetence of some of the leaders that lead to so many deaths and another dark period in history that was portrayed successfully in a sitcom. So his argument was that if a sitcom about the famine was done right it had the potential to be one of the great satires of our time and maybe do some form of justice to the victims.
The famine sitcom is also meant to be written by an Irish man. So instead of passing judgment I'm now going to wait and see. After all Channel 4 did make the classic comedy Fr. Ted. So maybe it will work.

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