TELEVISION IN IRELAND in the 1980s and 1990s was a weird and wonderful thing. Gameshows were huge, puppets were popular, and the height of drama was keeping up with the goings-on in a rural village.
Today, reality TV programmes are to the fore, documentaries are often troubling and sad, and the news rarely leaves you without a frown. So how about reviving some of our favourite TV shows from the ’80s and ’90s, and bringing some nostalgic joy into our lives?
Here are our top ten choices:
Whoever thought that two hyperactive woolly aliens would burrow their way into a generation of Irish children’s hearts was, quite frankly, a genius. For the uninitiated, Zigmund Ambrose Zogly and Zagnatius Hillary Zogly (AKA Zig and Zag) were two loveable, naive and sometimes naughty aliens from the planet Zog, who made their debut on Irish TV in 1987 on Dempsey’s Den alongside its host, Ian Dempsey.
In 1990, that show was replaced by The Den, and the irreverent extraterrestrials entertained every afternoon with the young, floppy-haired Ray D’Arcy. The cheeky twosome provided enough silly pranks to keep kids happy and enough double-entendres to entertain their parents too. Eventually they ended up on the Big Breakfast in the UK, but we’ll never forget the classic days of Zig and Zag. This video of them celebrating St Patrick’s Day in the early 1990s shows exactly why we’d love them back on our screens immediately.
Here’s a bonus clip of their later show, 2Phat, which ran from 1998 to 2000. Here, Zig and Zag stand up for Jim Corr:
The phrase ‘Irish fashion’ might have seemed an oxymoron for many years, but by the 1990s we had fashion programmes like Head2Toe to show us the way. The way of shoulder pads, power dressing and Laura Ashley prints, that is. That aside, it was a great way to keep up to date with current looks, the who’s-who of Irish fashion, and even gave some people the opportunity to give their badly-dressed friends a makeover without seeming really mean. Fashion shows can sometimes be airy-fairy, but this show kept it real. If Head 2 Toe does come back, we at TheJournal.ie demand just one condition: that presenter Pat O’Mahony returns too.
Ever heard of Morbegland? Neither had we, until the big-headed (we mean that figuratively) monsters appeared on our TV screens. Why would we want it back? Well, the irresistable Irish accents, the bright primary colours, and the sense that everything is A-OK in Morbegland makes this an escapist treat. Forget Spongebob Squarepants – this was real psychedelic children’s TV, and we reckon the nation would benefit from more of it.
People still wonder when No Disco is coming back – and though the answer is ‘probably never’, the loss of this great show from the Irish airwaves was a bit of a blow at that time for independent and underground music. With presenters of the calibre of Donal Dineen, the late Uaneen Fitzsimons and Leagues O’Toole at the helm, you were always guaranteed that this show would introduce you to stacks of great new music. Today, we reckon there’s still room for No Disco on our TV screens.
Here’s Dublin band The Jimmy Cake being interviewed by Leagues:
Every schoolchild of a certain age wished they were intelligent enough to represent their school on Blackboard Jungle in the early 1990s – or maybe that was just us. Hosted by the ubiquitous but loveable Ray D’arcy, it gave nerdy students the opportunity to trounce other nerdy students in a studio that was possibly inspired by a nightmare about being chased by giant exam papers. If this show came back, we’d insist that Ray returned too – it just wouldn’t be the same without him and his colourful shirts.
Dave Fanning, aka The Fastest Voice in the East (of Ireland) presented this music show on RTE Two from 1995 – 2001. Broadcast on Sunday mornings, the only Sabbath it would have celebrated was Black, and it brought a much-needed sense of fun to the day. There could be a ramshackle feel to it, even though it was aimed at modern, discerning music fans, which made it all the more entertaining. The need for a Sunday morning music show that features interesting interviews with great bands as well as music videos and giveaways just can’t be underestimated in today’s Ireland.
Where in the World
There were probably easier ways of going on holiday in the 1990s than appearing on TV with your family and answering general knowledge questions, but we’re lucky that the Where in the World contestants didn’t realise that. Thankfully for us, they entered in their droves and the lovely Teresa Lowe was there to ask the hard questions. So escapist and mesmerising was this Sunday night programme that many a child forgot to get their homework done in time for school the next morning. We always blamed the presenter – sorry, Teresa!
Know Your Sport
The Irish are fierce sports fans, so this programme was guaranteed to be a hit in most homes. (Except with those of us who are allergic to anything that involves a football, team or sports ground.) Presented by George Hamilton, the studio itself looked a bit ‘flat packed’, but we suspect that was actually a sign of professionalism at the time. Whatever about that, the glory of watching Know Your Sport was that you could show your sporting knowledge off in the company of other sports fans, which is really what it is all about.
Like The Den, Bosco showed that puppets can really trump adults in the entertainment stakes. The concept was simple, the professionalism of the actual puppet was suspect, but by gosh we loved that red-haired Bosco to death. (A number of TheJournal.ie staff even owned Bosco tricycles and other paraphenalia – did you?) The best bit was undoubtedly when Bosco would journey beyond the magic door, and the barely-noticeable special effects (cough) would transport you to the zoo or children’s birthday parties. Simple times.
If you see the word ‘Glenroe’ and immediately wonder if you have your homework done – or if your youngsters have theirs done – then welcome to the club. The affect of this show on the Irish psyche can’t be underestimated, which is why we’re asking for this to be brought back to our screens. Things were so much more relaxed betweeen 1983 – 2001 when all we had to worry about was whether Biddy and Miley were getting on or if Blackie Connors was up to something interesting. When Mick Lally, who played Miley, passed away an entire generation mourned the loss of a man who played such a huge part in their life. No doubt the character himself would have scoffed at our sentimentalism, but that’s how important Glenroe was in pre-Celtic Tiger, pre-Recession Ireland.
What shows would you like to see brought back? Tell us in the comments below…