Why I've gone off 'Republic of Doyle'

Peter Jackson pjackson@thetelegram.com
Published on February 9, 2010

If there's one truth that has withstood the test of time - and the varying demands of societal mores - it is that sex sells.

That shiny car would look lonely without the blond in a slinky dress. Nothing goes better with beer than a flock of party girls in short shorts. And while he may be animated, Mr. Clean is every housewife's dream, right down to muscle-packed T-shirt and gold earring.

If there's one truth that has withstood the test of time - and the varying demands of societal mores - it is that sex sells.

That shiny car would look lonely without the blond in a slinky dress. Nothing goes better with beer than a flock of party girls in short shorts. And while he may be animated, Mr. Clean is every housewife's dream, right down to muscle-packed T-shirt and gold earring.

The theory is that even those who see through such tasteless stereotypes are still titillated on some subconscious level.

The same is true of television shows.

As the barriers fall with every new generation, we're inundated with more and more scenes of nudity, lust and unbridled boinkery.

"You wouldn't see that in my day," chorus the older crowd. "It's disgusting - shouldn't be allowed."

When I saw the inaugural episode of "Grey's Anatomy" several years ago, I thought I was hooked. The premise was clever: young interns stumbling through the pressure cooker of hospital life.

Then, it quickly lapsed into "Peyton Place." Who made whoopee in the linen closet? Who caught who in bed with so-and-so? A promising drama turned into a sex romp.

In fact, there's little else but sex romps on the tube these days - with marginal restrictions on network television, and pretty well no censorship at all on cable channels like HBO.

Parade of flesh

Now, I'm loathe to be judgmental about sexual voyeurism in itself, mainly for fear of being labelled a prude.

But even if you're desensitized to the parade of flesh on the screen, at some point you have to admit the stuff can get in the way of a good story. More so if the sexual exploits bear little resemblance to any reality you're aware of. After all, who watches porn for the plot?

Enter "Republic of Doyle."

Believe it or not, I was young once, and I can attest (from observation more than personal experience) that courtship and commitment were often considered unnecessary hindrances. People slept around, period.

So, when I see characters on "Republic" locking lips at every opportunity, there's a ring of truth in it. I've certainly known a few real-life skeets who, like the main character Jake Doyle, tried to hop in the sack with every long-legged looker they met.

The problem is, Jake Doyle usually succeeds. The women are all horny and indiscriminate; all but a couple of them exist for little other purpose than to throw themselves at Jake at least once every show. And some sort of "chemistry" usually develops with guest characters as well.

In a nutshell, the show is sexist.

Ironic preview

It took a few episodes to realize this. And there's an irony in the fact that a preview of it was so warmly received by patrons at last year's women's film festival in St. John's. I wonder whether anyone has since had second thoughts.

There are other reasons why "Republic" has failed to keep me hooked. One is the prevalence of a distinctly St. John's style of Irish romanticism. It's very much a "townie" show, and I wouldn't be surprised if it alienates many rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

As well, violence - or threat thereof - seems to be another vice that's in no short supply.

"Republic" held promise of being a refreshingly new show, one that showcased the colourful character of St. John's and its inhabitants. To a great extent, it does.

It's unfortunate, then, that instead of standing apart from the usual shlock on TV these days, it has instead offered more of the same.

Much more.

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