The apartment we rented in Rochestown came fully furnished, including a television, but unfortunately, when we moved to our current house, there was no TV.  One of Amy’s co-workers was moving to England and offered hers when she left, but after waiting weeks for it, it turned out to be useless.  It was programmed for satellite and without the original remote control we couldn’t watch anything.  A new remote wouldn’t work unless it had been specially programmed (at a cost of about €60), or so we were told.  Another of Amy’s co-workers was moving to America, so we decided to wait for her TV.  When it arrived, the 14-inch screen looked puny, it was too old to work with the DVD player we’d bought, we could only get three stations at our new location without paying for cable or satellite, and those stations came in badly.  To top it off, Ireland has an annual license fee of €160, so if we kept the TV, we’d have to pay up.  We dumped the TV and haven’t watched for months.

Of course having no TV has its benefits, and we certainly read more than we did, but TV can be a great way to learn more about a country when you’ve just arrived.  We learned a lot from one show in particular, “Nationwide,” which appeared several times a week (in America, most shows appear weekly, every day, or just on weekdays, whereas here they might appear three times a week, or four, or whatever strikes the fancy of the programmers).   Every episode of “Nationwide” featured three or so stories, each looking at different part (a festival, or an artist, or volunteer organization or whatever) of one town or county in Ireland.

Without subscribing to satellite, there are at best only four channels to watch here, and in some locations less than that.  I would estimate that 40% of the total programming of the four stations comes from America, 40% from Britain, and only about 20% from Ireland.  So, it’s largely the same crap you see in America, but worse, actually, because TV producers the world over steal ideas, so three versions of essentially the same show (for example, “America’s Got Talent,” “Britain’s Got Talent,” and “Ireland’s Got Talent”) may all run here.

TG4 is a largely-Irish-language station that gets revenue from advertising but also from Government for its support of the Irish language.  Government tries to encourage the use of Irish, but I’m not sure TG4 will provide real value for money in that regard.  Yes, there is kids’ programming in Irish (“Dora the Explorer,” “Sesame Street,” and “Scooby Doo” are all dubbed into Irish, and the freaky thing is how well they did finding people who can match the original voices, so it really sounds like Shaggy is speaking Irish), but most of the shows seem to be aimed at the over-80 crowd.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it seems the majority of the shows on TG4 are about old events.  There’s the show where the interviewer talks with seniors about the old days, or the two different shows following their hosts as they sail in small boats to coastal communities and talk to people about the old days, or the one with the man who drives around and talks to people about the old days, and . . . well, you get the picture.  They rebroadcast sporting events from decades ago and their one American show is “Cold Case,” which is a police drama about old crimes.  The worst, though, is the show in which they send the host “on a quest to recreate postcards of times gone by.” Yes, they take an old postcard and try to find where the picture on it was taken and recreate the shot.  I’m sure the teens really love that one.

Two other stations also get government funding, which leaves poor TV3 as the only station solely reliant on revenue from advertisers.  This led them to complain (rightly) that the other stations getting revenue from both advertising and Government have used the extra income to outbid TV3 on the rights to broadcast sporting events and American TV shows.  According to an article I read, the proposal to address this imbalance doesn’t involve simply cutting Government funding and putting all the stations on an equal footing, but asking the Government-funded stations to program less popular programs.  Yes, it looks like they’ll need to stop running shows people want to watch.

One plus to watching TV in Ireland as opposed to in America is that here there is no editing of movies, so when “Sin City” was broadcast, for example, it included all the original violence and nudity.  The same lack of editing applies to shows from other countries, although American broadcast TV is so tame by most international standards there wouldn’t be anything to cut anyway.  British TV can be quite entertaining, especially shows like “Trinny and Susannah Undress the Nation,” because Trinny and Susannah really DO undress the nation (before dressing them back up in more stylish clothes).  Amy particularly liked the one with the brawny miners.

But the best things broadcast here are the Cadbury commercials.  Just like in America, most commercials are pretty bad, but the Cadbury commercials are so popular that when a new one comes out, as one did yesterday, it’s talked about on the radio.  Okay, so “Airport Trucks” from last year wasn’t so good, but both the “Eyebrows” and “Gorilla” commercials are quite entertaining.  Follow the links and enjoy.

Gorilla Cadbury Commercial

Eyebrow Cadbury Commercial