After over three years of Gogglebox gold courtesy of our friends in the UK, the time finally came for us to see the people of Ireland watching television, on television. Yes, Gogglebox Ireland debuted on TV3 last night, and from its ingenious opening to the bells of the Angelus to the initial introductions, it was clear we were in for a treat.
Ten sets of families and friends from Cavan, Meath, Limerick, Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Cork got comfy on their sofas where they offered their opinions and reactions on everything from the bus strike to America’s Got Talent.
Both the people and the programmes were excellently chosen with the selection of shows as broad as the cross section of Irish society it represented.
If viewers felt it was different from the UK version, they’d be right, and like Paul and Paul from Youghal, there’s room on the sofa for both.
The format has always allowed the people to shine. They are the show’s greatest asset and source of entertainment, and while the Irish version is no different in this regard, the attitudes and reactions are undoubtedly what distinguishes it from its UK counterpart.
I was bemused to find that the age-old suspicion of ‘over-the-top’ Americans persists in some quarters, with Cavan twins Fergal and Neal in particular offering remarks such as ‘The Americans like to show off with their hats’ on viewing Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
Given the opportunity to own the autonomous car featured on Prime Time, early favourites Angela and Eileen from Castleknock saw it had its uses but were skeptical. Angela would send it to Lidl for a half pound of butter and some toilet rolls, but still sees it as laziness, while Eileen assures us ‘you won’t see me in one of them’.
Elsewhere, Sharon Ní Bheoláin, and Miriam O’Callaghan of the ’42 children’, were both ‘looking well,’ while a lioness accompanying her friend to meet a potential mate in Ingenious Animals was a ‘jealous bitch’. The sound of the national anthem at the start of the All-Ireland Final had the ladies from Dublin’s Liberties reminiscing about the ‘end of a good night out’, while Ron Burgundy had ‘a moustache like a Weetabix’.
As with the UK version it wasn’t all laughs, and the brilliant Smalltown touched a number of our Goggleboxers. Des and Laura Grufferty from Kildare watched with their daughter Danielle, and it was lovely to hear Des ask ‘Dan’ if she was okay, and her Mam wondering what message she might take from the programme.
I was interested to see how the participants would act on screen considering they’re probably already well attuned to the show. I wondered if they would be self-conscious, or attempting to project a persona, but thankfully this didn’t appear to be the case, with how natural everyone came across proving a key element of its appeal. Nor was it forced, which proves we don’t have to be continually droning on about the immersion, flat 7up or who said mass in an attempt to share a collective notion of what it is to be Irish. Gogglebox Ireland proves that we can celebrate what makes us distinctive by simply being who we are.
Would I watch it again next week? In the words of Neal from Cavan, “feckin’ sure I would”.
Catch episode one of Gogglebox Ireland on the TV3 Player.