The madness of our times

The madness of our times Douglas is cancelled

Well, I think Mad World has to be my theme song this week. Maybe there’s nothing new under the sun, but previous generations would surely be mystified by some of last week’s goings on.

One of the high-profile events of the week was a US presidential debate where an oldish guy, a convicted felon, debated with an even older and frequently confused gentleman about the respective merits of their golfing skills; a general election in the UK featured debates on the definition of a woman and umpteen genders; a man in jail because after a row over pronouns was released for the school holidays.


As regards that Presidential Debate (BBC News/CNN, June 27 night), I watched it all in the line of duty – useful, as clips usually give a less than faithful impression. It was by times sad, embarrassing, puzzling, depressing, infuriating and cringeworthy. Many outside commentators have been exasperated – are these candidates the best the USA can produce? Scott Lucas of UCD was certainly depressed – “Pray for America today” he pleaded on Today with Claire Byrne (RTE Radio 1, June 28). I found both candidates unimpressive and worrying. Biden wasn’t quite as bad as the clips suggested – after an embarrassing and incoherent start, he rallied somewhat while Trump was his usual hyperbolic and bombastic self.  The debate was hosted by CNN, usually very partisan, but after the event they fact checked both Trump and Biden – both had errors, inaccuracies or falsehoods, whether intentional, accidental or delusional, though Trump had more. Funny enough, in most media commentary Trump was more likely to be accused of ‘lies’. Media in Ireland throw all pretence of impartiality to the wind when it comes to US politics and there were several discussions that just featured several shades of anti-Trump, but the approach of covering for Biden was over, with several pro-Democrats wanting him to quit the race.

They weren’t asked about their religious beliefs, but needless to say, abortion was raised. Trump was glad he was instrumental in getting Roe v Wade overturned and getting decision making back to the individual states, but he was in favour of ‘the exceptions’ – incest, rape, life of the mother. Biden said he’d restore Roe v. Wade but rambled quite a bit on this topic.

The strange thing was, by June 28 night’s Sky News, I was looking at Biden back out in fighting mode – fiery, coherent and articulate, but it was pointed out he was among supporters and using a teleprompter. That didn’t fully explain the overnight transformation.


The proceedings might be described as having ‘net zero cognitive content’, a zinger from Douglas is Cancelled (ITV, June 27), a new drama series that skewers the madness of our times. Hugh Bonneville is perfectly cast as a respected newsreader who feels the ire of the X/Twitter crowd after someone tweets that he made a sexist joke at a wedding. He says he can’t even remember the joke. The tweet goes viral and he’s in trouble at work and at home, where his activist and micro-aggression-sensitive daughter Claudia (Madeleine Power) says she hopes she won’t have to cancel him. The comedy is alternatively broad and subtle and the satire as sharp as a knife with some great one-liners. His cynical studio boss Toby (Ben Miles) has the best lines: ‘truth is useful, yes, but I’d prefer something a little more balanced’; ‘truth is only one side of the story’; ‘we can move in the direction of honesty once we’ve decided on the facts’. The anti-woke crowd shouldn’t get too excited yet about the send up of the excesses of political correctness. There are a few clues already suggesting that the hapless Douglas might not be such an innocent victim of the Twitter pile-on. Fast-paced and wickedly funny, the show can be crude and profane at times which doesn’t add anything useful to the proceedings.

Unlike Toby, I try not to be cynical, but media bias by omission is one thing that bugs me. I can’t find any trace of coverage by RTE or Newstalk of the latest dramatic increase in the abortion figures released last Friday. In what universe is the deaths of over 10,000 babies, unborn but living, not worthy of note? How de-sensitised do you have to be?

I did find one RTE headline – ‘Health Minister concerned at rise in abortion figures’ and I thought, finally, the penny is dropping. Sadly, it was from 2001.



Channel 4 Sunday, July 7, 8.30am

Bart feels an unexpected emptiness when he ‘sells’ his soul to Millhouse for some ALF pogs. (S7 Ep4/25)


EWTN Sunday, July 7, 9pm

An EWTN original movie on the life of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and established missions around the world.


Film 4 Wednesday, July 10, 6.25pm

(2016) Three African American women work on the space race for NASA in the 1960’s and meet prejudice of all kinds. Positive outlook on religion.