State of the 'Republic': epilogue

Peter
Peter Jackson
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I'd hoped to talk about more important things this week - like whether nori-wrapped sticky rice is an adequate substitute for seal meat - but I feel duty-bound to revisit last week's piece about "Republic of Doyle."

Not only did that column attract a flood of online comments, but it elicited relentless ribaldry from friends and workmates. (Your mockery, dear colleagues, will not be soon forgotten.)

I'd hoped to talk about more important things this week - like whether nori-wrapped sticky rice is an adequate substitute for seal meat - but I feel duty-bound to revisit last week's piece about "Republic of Doyle."

Not only did that column attract a flood of online comments, but it elicited relentless ribaldry from friends and workmates. (Your mockery, dear colleagues, will not be soon forgotten.)

Most of the online reaction to the column, on the other hand, was well taken. I think it ignited a healthy debate about the merits and weaknesses of the show. After all the frenzied hype that preceded it, surely a little open discussion couldn't hurt.

First, let's get the sex thing out of the way.

The verdict was split on the show's sexual content. Several people agreed with my point that the sex was not only gratuitous, but sexist.

"Sex is a poor substitute for quality writing today," wrote Polly Pickford (one of the few people who left a full name). "Why leave a viewer thinking through a plot when you can so easily give them cheap thrills?"

A couple of readers recounted being mortified after allowing their children to watch without realizing the content wasn't suitable.

Several others, meanwhile, had a little fun with my prudish sermonizing.

"Why does everyone have a problem with the sexual content?" wrote Mandy, who followed with a piercing insight. "Maybe you people should open your eyes. ... We are all having sex."

Another reader, Heather, saw it this way:

"The only things that bother me about the sexual content of 'Doyle' are: a) I'm not the one having sex, and b) as a post-menopausal woman (not by much!) the Jake Doyles of this world are no longer interested in having sex with me."

A few readers said that if I was so uptight about the sex, I should seek out more smut-free entertainment.

Among their recommendations:

"Land and Sea"

"Road to Avonlea"

"Murder, She Wrote"

Now, the last two have never been on my must-see list, but "Land and Sea" is a great show. It is a documentary, however, not entertainment. If the producers ever decided to introduce sexual tension between Pauline Thornhill and that old fisherman from Cod Bite Cove, I think it would be time to tune out.

I knew I was asking for it, though, complaining about sex on TV. I came out looking like Sam the Eagle on "The Muppet Show," raising a feathery eyebrow in disgust upon realizing that "people, underneath their clothes, are completely naked."

It also reminded me of the late fundamentalist Gerry Falwell, who once condemned the producers of "The Teletubbies" for advocating homosexuality. Apparently, the character Tinky Winky was implicitly gay because he was purple, had a triangle on his head and carried around what looked to be a purse.

Shortly after Falwell's revelation, New Yorker magazine contributor Paul Rudnick wrote a marvelous sendup titled "Pinky Winky was My Lover":

I didn't just watch Tinky's TV show, I bought the books, each title more arousing than the last - "Dipsy Dances," "Four Happy Teletubbies" - culminating in the inevitable erotic explosion of "Tubby Custard Mess."

I wanted Tinky, I wanted him bad, as he group-hugged and cavorted through the greensward of Teletubbyland, swinging a red purse ...

I should add that Tinky was not my first celebrity crush. I'd spent a few torrid years experimenting with Eeyore, Barbar, and the exhausting Curious George, and I can thank Viagra for that Catskills weekend with "The Little Engine That Could."

Sex aside, several readers expressed dismay at the predictable lilt and grammatical quirks of the characters on "Doyle."

"I live in St. John's, and the majority of people do not talk like that," wrote Sonya W.

"Maybe the characters should be able to talk with their own voice, instead of trying to fake it and sounding really bad," echoed Sharon Casey.

I agree. Perhaps they could mix up the townie gene pool a bit for the next season. At any rate, the final word goes to an eminently wise reader named Liz:

"Calling Mr. Jackson a prude is ignorant and reactionary."

So true. Thanks, Liz.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: New Yorker magazine

Geographic location: Avonlea, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Susan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Oh, Peter Jackson. If only you could live up to an ounce of the creative taste which you seem to think you possess. You're sooo... vanilla? Thrown in with a heaping side of whine. If looking at your headshot didn't provide me with such entertainment, I don't even know why I would look twice at your columns. I think I would pay ten cents more for The Telegram if you were no longer a writer.

    Obviously, the decision makers with Republic of Doyle know what people want to watch as the ratings are amazing compared to the other new CBC shows this season. If numbers are all that matter, they're winning the arms race to season 2.

    Did anyone recommend that you take up watching CBC's Heartland? It's a real family story, pure, innocent, on a ranch and most of all... there's horses! I was just reminded of it as reading your article is a lot like beating a dead horse.

  • I. P. Freely
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    I find documentary programs entertaining. I didn't know they were not ment to entertain, thanks Peter.

  • Taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    I guess you didn't watch The Trailer Park Boys. I only mention them because they were a popular show while on TV and are still performing on the road. You are apparently not consulted when TV producers decide what the people want to watch.

  • Pete
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Aren't columnists supposed to have thicker skins, such as the Doyle characters?

    You wrote a good column with good timing with lots of response - good show - time to move on ?

    As far as one commentor implying that the next episode would not be shown this week - it appears as it there are many reruns for the next two weeks. Why waste new episodes competing with the Olympics for ratings?

    Perhaps a current topic might be how the Olympic coverage is no longer on free (NTV) or semi-free (CBC) TV in NL. They have even suspended Canada AM (on NTV). Both Canadian Mogul athletes and Canadian Cable Moguls are both going for Gold this year?

    Strange world - one generation strives to advance from wireless to landlines, the other from landlines to wireless for their entertainment.

  • I. P. Freely
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    I find documentary programs entertaining. I didn't know they were not ment to entertain, thanks Peter.

  • Susan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Oh, Peter Jackson. If only you could live up to an ounce of the creative taste which you seem to think you possess. You're sooo... vanilla? Thrown in with a heaping side of whine. If looking at your headshot didn't provide me with such entertainment, I don't even know why I would look twice at your columns. I think I would pay ten cents more for The Telegram if you were no longer a writer.

    Obviously, the decision makers with Republic of Doyle know what people want to watch as the ratings are amazing compared to the other new CBC shows this season. If numbers are all that matter, they're winning the arms race to season 2.

    Did anyone recommend that you take up watching CBC's Heartland? It's a real family story, pure, innocent, on a ranch and most of all... there's horses! I was just reminded of it as reading your article is a lot like beating a dead horse.

  • Taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    I guess you didn't watch The Trailer Park Boys. I only mention them because they were a popular show while on TV and are still performing on the road. You are apparently not consulted when TV producers decide what the people want to watch.

  • Pete
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Aren't columnists supposed to have thicker skins, such as the Doyle characters?

    You wrote a good column with good timing with lots of response - good show - time to move on ?

    As far as one commentor implying that the next episode would not be shown this week - it appears as it there are many reruns for the next two weeks. Why waste new episodes competing with the Olympics for ratings?

    Perhaps a current topic might be how the Olympic coverage is no longer on free (NTV) or semi-free (CBC) TV in NL. They have even suspended Canada AM (on NTV). Both Canadian Mogul athletes and Canadian Cable Moguls are both going for Gold this year?

    Strange world - one generation strives to advance from wireless to landlines, the other from landlines to wireless for their entertainment.