When I was beyond in Dublin, I saw a large flower planter at an intersection in Deansgrange. Near the cemetery and a pub called the Grange, it was placed at a street crossing where it takes about 45 minutes for the lights to change.
There was a handwritten sign stuck in among the wee flowers: "Please do not sit on me. I want to grow old, like U2." Ha bloody ha. Dublin whimsy.
U2 is on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Friday (NBC, 11:35 p.m.). The band was supposed to do a week-long stint on Fallon months ago but the gig was cancelled when Bono had a cycling accident in Central Park in New York.
Friday's appearance features a bit in which Fallon and Bono recreate the accident. So many photos from the shooting of the sketch have appeared online that you can practically see all of it, already, Fallon is on a kids' bike and Bono, with blond hair, is on a serious bike. A Bono dummy is flung against a van and then Bono is stretched out like a mackerel on the street.
It was a serious accident. Bono was injured for months and required surgery. At one point, the word was that he might never play guitar again. This brought forth some joking that such an outcome would be a good thing for music.
There's no doubt there's something highly annoying about U2. Yes, they're old. Bono is 55 on May 10. The band's been going since 1976. These days, they keep making albums that are a bit boring. Like everyone else, I was irritated to find an entire U2 album in my iTunes without asking for it. And eventually I deleted all of it, except for one song.
Don't get me wrong. I've nothing against U2. I grew up with them and their music. I don't find Bono's efforts on various social issues to be absurd. It's his sense of common decency. Once, Bono phoned me at my home number in Toronto. Not for an interview – nothing of the kind was scheduled – or to ask for anything. He called for a chat. That was 30 years ago. He wouldn't know me from Adam Clayton now.
After all the decades, U2 do seem a tired band. It's the thing with rock music. As Paul Weller, formerly of the Jam and Style Council, said recently about his racket: "If you don't die of a drug overdose, you're always going to end up an elder statesman."
So, U2 are elderly in the rock context. But here's the thing – the band has a sense of humour. Doing a skit on Fallon's show about Bono's bike accident is the evidence.
Which brings us to The Big Bang Theory (Tonight, CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.). The upshot is this: "As Sheldon presses Leonard and Penny to set a wedding date, he encounters major changes in his relationship with Amy."
Well, you can predict the jokes in advance. Big Bang has deteriorated this season into a repetitive, groan-inducing bore. The most recent episode, The Maternal Combustion, was downright awful. Sheldon and Leonard's mothers finally met. Meanwhile, Howard made an effort to "man up" and do his fair share of the housework. It was ludicrously bad. The male characters were reduced to idiot-boys and the female characters to shrews and harpies.
The sparkle is gone. The cleverness of the jokes has evaporated.
What began as a comedy about two science geeks as roommates Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and their pals, depended on a key dynamic – the gal across the hall, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a waitress and aspiring actress. The comedy was rooted in the guys' relations with each other and with Penny. In a nutshell: science jokes and the guys' fear of Penny's blond sexiness and adorability. That, and her affectionate mocking of them.
Since then, it's become a relationship show. One that makes reruns of Friends seem fresh and zippy. Big Bang is an old, tired show. Just as U2 seem an old, tired band.
The irony is that there's something funny about U2. There's a willingness to do dumb, funny bits on Jimmy Fallon's show. There's very little that's funny about Big Bang. I'd miss U2 if they stopped being a band and disappeared forever. At this point, I'm not sure I'd miss The Big Bang Theory if it were cancelled. And that's not Dublin whimsy.