It was 1987 and I was studying for my Inter Cert.
One welcome diversion from the cramming was Civics. While not an exam subject it was on the school timetable as easy filler; a weekly opportunity to shoot the breeze with a teacher known as Bob (a moniker logically based on his initials). Bob’s role was career guidance and broad-based advice based on vague notions of what we wanted to do after walking out the school gates on that final day. Subject choice for the Leaving was also discussed and endlessly analysed. Given the grim economic times the spectre of emigration loomed for many while the rest of us gradually formed a tenuous bond to those skimpy colour coded leaflets and austere career directories.
Later on that year RTÉ got in on the act. The time was pretty prime – Monday evenings at 6.30pm just as we had our tea (or dinner for the urban-dwellers) and straight after News and Newstime. The name of the programme was Nothing To It?, the question mark recalling the doubts conjured up by Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators‘ business card. In retrospect it could be considered as symbolising the muddled desperation of Irish youth. The programme was written and directed by Gerry Stembridge, later of Scrap Saturday fame.
The premise was simple but devastatingly effective. Three people sharing a chronically untidy Dublin flat played by Michael Murphy, Veronica Coburn and Pauline McLynn. None of them had a clue of what they wanted to be when they grew up – instead they relied on their imagination to conjure up a random career on a weekly basis. Each situation was played out like a miniature drama which was loaded with caricatures. Nobody was safe – from anodyne civil servants to corrupt and sleazy gardaí – taking in journalists, bankers, politicians, computer programmers and even caterers along the way. We were also treated to such joys as interview techniques (culminating in a surreal piece with an all-picture no-sound McLynn) and stern sanctimonious “advice” from agony aunt Agnes Day.
I recall the complaints starting pretty quickly (primarily via Mailbag) and continuing as the series rolled on every week. The boys in blue were certainly not impressed, although Garda Patrol had never done them any favours in the PR department. The final episode could only have had one outcome – our trio deciding to take the boat to England – and was played out with grim inevitability and a deeply cynical parting shot from McLynn’s Agnes Day.
“I suppose there are some young people the country is better off without”.
This barbed comment prefigured Brian Lenihan Senior’s tactless “We can’t all live on a small island” quip by about two years.
Like many RTÉ shows Nothing To It? was never repeated. It did get a five minute feature on Network 2’s @ last tv back in 1997 which can be seen above. Looking back 25 years later it still seems as subversive and funny as ever.