Saturday, December 03, 2005

Mind Numbing Muppets: Pat The Plank And Terrified Kids

Presenting another in a series of Mind Numbing Muppets - a Soundtracksforthem response from the underbelly of the keyboard to the kaleidoscope of dazzlingly silly cahnts who impose themselves on us via their access to the media.

Number 3: Pat Kenny

Two weeks after Halloween and businesses across the country were doing their best to confuse the fuck out of every one by decking out the Chrimbo lights. Get ready because from December 8th on the city will break into a frenzied panic as culchies descend to get their shopping on. Dare you lurk by the bus stop to Heuston station for all the pushing elbows and country battle axes grabbling their way on to buses as if they were the last exits from hell. Then like flies on shit, and stoners to a 24 hour garage, urbanite shoppers find themselves compelled by decorative lights to splash ludicrous amounts of dosh about shops all in the name of Christ. Newspaper headlines will soon forget scarcity in Sudan and regale us with a slightly worrying concern with Barbie shortages and video game droughts.

At least at this time of year there’s one constant. For years now The Late Late Toy Show has pepped up kids around the country with the sort of hell bent consumer excitement us adults get from peering over that tome of consumer pornography, the Argos catalogue. A doyen amidst the TV schedules the Toy Show has become standard fare to tickle the toes in the pre-Christmas run up. For parents it’s an opportunity to go window shopping without leaving their gaff. For kids its an opportunity to load up on all the ammunition they need to make the X-mas run up complete and harangue their folks with demands. For those of us without a Friday night social life, it provides the sort of comic relief that can only come from a presenter who’s had his personality hoovered out of his nose, leaving him with all the stuffiness of Paddington Bear. The Toy Show revels in that form television that sees adults getting their kicks from the reactions of terrified looking kids.

A childhood memory of Kenny has him gawking from the screen, like Joe Ninety with a degree, presenting ‘Today Tonight’ the forerunner of Prime Time. Starting off as a continuity announcer, Kenny’s plank-ness became obvious early on doing the voice over for Dev’s funeral. After a bout of solemn fiddly dee music, Pat read out the title without checking – it turned out to be ‘The Aul Divil Is Dead.’ Moving on to present the Eurovision, Pat would annoy half of Europe before finally being pacified with his very own ‘Kenny Live’ leading to a state of perpetual guerrilla war in Mountrose between the two production teams. As Gaybo pissed off to retirement, Pat fell into his shoes, leading to a huge fall in ratings. Critics only began to hold their guns on Kenny after viewers opted not to tune into Dunphy’s melted wax model face and retained their generational loyalties to the Late Late.

The latest Toy Show saw Hazel Kaneswaran’s (her of Dove fame and now You’re A Star) kid dragged out on stage to like a performing monkey while she mouthed support from the sidelines. With a face like a rabbit in a headlight, the poor fucker looked like a caged animal in the glare of the studio lights and could only stare blankly at the audience. His ordeal only got worse when a seven foot Barney appeared to mouth off Christmas tunes, while a delirious looking Pat The Plank whooped it up prancing around the child like some demented elf. Dustin still made his annual appearance with all the mannerisms of a drunk taxi driver pontificating on current affairs. Pat struggled to cope with the scripted jokes about turkey hunts, and his attempts to raise the level of humour with a doll that mouthed Bush-ism’s was undercut by the turkey’s Bertie doll, a Telly Tubby. Every year there is the inevitable pile up as kids on bikes hurl themselves across the studio to the glee of Kenny, this year some three year old on a trike nearly came foul of an eight year old road hog in a motorised quad.

Gone are the days of the Billy Barry Kids with their dancing routines and eyes glazed over with Skittle over indulgence. These days thankfully its more a dose of twelve year old rock bands churning out covers of ‘The Darkness.’ The Toy Show features all the stereotypes one could care to mention. The seven year old hairdresser, glamming it up like failed cast members on Ab Fab, all that was missing was a fag hanging from her mouth. The book worms pontificating about Harry Potter, the video game nerds who can barely take their eyes off Fifa to tolerate Kenny for a moment and the construction nerds fiddling around with bits of wood.

Gaybo had his festive jumper, giving him the sort of doteage that smacks of grand-dad and packages of Werthers. With Pat, one can’t help but feel slightly queasy as he awkwardly cohorts with the kids. Behave! The only kiddy fiddling going on here is that of the corporations, who as ever leap on any opportunity provided to pass off their merchandise on the new generation. As a recent episode of Panorama pointed out 60% of household expenditure is on products to satisfy kids. All this means the little gits control the consumer end of an industry worth $1.1 Trillion globally, and that industry is intimately linked to Christmas. As Christmas beckons one really does get the urge to re-enact a stunt performed by the London based situationists, King Mob in the seventies. Who walked into a high street store, dressed as Santa and began to hand out toys to kids with a ‘merry Christmas.’ Full of Christmas cheer, security began to wrestle with hysterical kids in an effort to snatch the toys back.

The new Smyth’s ad models itself on Power City ads, some kid shouts prices while his female helpers present the various products on sale. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the logic behind some of the more popular products like Pokemon, which bases itself totally on the logic of compulsive consumerism. ‘Got To Catch Them All’ maybe the aim of the shows characters, but ‘got to buy them all’ becomes the reality for parents when it comes to the playing cards and other products. Pokemon once the most insidious end of a industry that seeks to condition children for a life time of buying, has passed its traits on to other products like YU-GI-OH and Bratz. All of which urge more purchases as a means to extract full utility from the line. Buy one Bratz, and it’s a doll, buy two and they interact. Socialisation begins earlier and earlier.

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to

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