How to throw new light on things


It’s splendidly Kiwi. Whatever else you might think of the Politically Incorrect Parenting Show (TV1, Wednesdays, 8pm) the producers at least deserve our deep gratitude for a certain creation. Like the car seatbelt and the swimming pool fence, it will probably save lives. Talk about filling a gap in the market. Ten years from now we’ll be wondering how we ever got by without it.

It’s the ‘irony’ light, a long-overdue innovation in New Zealand. It made its debut during the PIPS’ opening episode, flashing whenever host and psychologist Nigel Latta said anything unlikely or unbelievable, just to ensure that everyone knew he was joking. It worked too. At one stage he said something about feeding the kids
to the alligators – the light came on and hey presto, everyone laughed.

A former colleague at the New Zealand Herald, Frances Grant, noted that on a couple of occasions, however, the light seemed to be short-circuiting. That is, not flashing when it should. Maybe it was just teething problems with the sound and lighting crew, maybe the irony in question hadn’t been underlined in red on the script.
I’m sure it’ll be sorted out quickly.

For instance when Latta, presented as an expert on parenting, bemoaned the confusion caused by the conflicting advice of so many parenting experts, the light remained unlit throughout. And similarly, when he prattled on about our over-protective communities and misguided attempts to cotton-wool people, it didn’t even explode. Not once.

I mean, what’s an ‘irony’ light if not an attempt to protect folk from the obvious?

For all that, it’s hard to imagine this new innovation not becoming a startling success. It’s a trend that will no doubt spread quickly throughout the industry. Expect the TV1 Breakfast team to start flashing the ‘irony’ light whenever Paul Henry passes a moral opinion on anything. And for TV3’s Target show to have one blinking whenever it passes judgement on another business.

And just on that, surely it’s now only a matter of time until we have ‘irony’ lights included in both our evening news bulletins. That way, whenever the three-times divorced, four-times married Christine Rankin starts lecturing on family values, the ‘irony’ light will automatically glow brightly and we’ll all know to laugh. And whenever a National politician starts denying a privatisation agenda, we can feel free to split our sides.

Who can we thank for all this? The hard-liners at PIPS of course, those brave men and women who had the courage, let alone the foresight, to bubble-wrap their not-so-biting wit while in the same breath warning us all about the dangers of bubble-wrap. Ah well, that’s TV for you, I guess. It doesn’t really get any more ironic than that.