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Ricky Gervais is shown during the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Paul Drinkwater/AP)
Ricky Gervais is shown during the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Paul Drinkwater/AP)

John Doyle: Television

The year in (televised) insults Add to ...

Your mother wears army boots. Take off, hosehead.

It is with wistful nostalgia that we recall the insults and slurs of yesteryear. Oh, and at this time of the year it is important to include “yesteryear” in most writing about the fact that it is this time of the year. People seem to like it. I hope you’re not insulted if you like “yesteryear.”

Also at this time of the year, lists are compiled. Best-of lists and Worst-of lists. All fine. People also seem to like lists. Mind you, most lists are predictable. Me, I can’t recall seeing a list of insults for the year gone by. Insults is our topic today.

During the first week of January, in the eventful year that draws to a close, I wrote a column concerning a documentary about cats. Kitties. What’s not to like? Unless you’re allergic, perhaps. Even then, why would anyone throw insults around?

The sun had barely risen on the day of publication when I heard from a reader. This, note you, is someone who had not yet seen the program in question. After some opening remarks about my “silly column” and sarcastic comment about my looks, I was informed that I am “ignorant and disconnected from simple and obvious ecological reality.”

Kitty cats. I was writing about cats. Still, the insults flowed. We live in the age of casual insults thrown willy-nilly by e-mail and online comment. Often, as anyone who goes online knows, from the vantage point of anonymity, people will say the most extraordinary things.

Sometimes, of course, anonymity doesn’t arise. Recently, after I made a joking remark in this space about the self-important people from the book publishing racket that one sees preening during the broadcast of the Griller Prize, the Association of Canadian Publishers took umbrage and insults flowed in my direction. Boy, people are touchy about being on TV, and that leads to insults thrown.

Let’s move along from insults that come my way. The TV racket and its attendant offshoots offer a cornucopia of choice insults and slurs. Herewith, a short account of the year 2011 in insults.

At the start of the year – Charlie Sheen on his Two and a Half Men producers, in an interview with E! channel: “They can’t hang with me, their bones would melt like wax.”

Ricky Gervais introducing Bruce Willis at the Golden Globes: “Please welcome Ashton Kutcher’s dad.”

In April along cameSun News Network. And where to even start with Ezra Levant of Sun News and his verbal assaults on the CBC? Recently, an article about the CBC in the online Global Post had a list of Levant’s slurs. Here’s a few of his descriptions of CBC: “Pro-Taliban,” “pro-terrorist,” “PR agency for terrorism,” “mooches,” “a national disgrace,” “crazy,” “radical,” “liars,” and “off-the-hook partisan.”

But one cannot forget this insult thrown back at Levant by an Occupy Toronto protester: “I think you’re a jackass.”

In the summer, True Blood retuned with bickering vampires, fairies, werewolves and the occasional ordinary human. Much of what flies in choice insult on True Blood is unprintable in a newspaper but I do remember Sookie Stackhouse’s printable remark to handsome hunk Alcide Herveaux, who was trying to get her out of danger: “You know, for a badass werewolf, you drive like a girl.”

Notable too was Don Cherry in his infamous October rant about the perceived crisis of fighting in hockey: “[They say]‘Oh, the reason that they’re drinking, [taking]drugs and alcoholics is because they’re fighting.’ You turncoats. You hypocrites” There followed, in the barely coherent tirade, some stuff about “pukes.”

A related insult was Ron MacLean’s claim that he was just fine with Cherry’s venom. The fact that Cherry later apologized to the former NHLers he insulted, only made MacLean’s wussiness (there’s an insult!) worse.

On TV comedies there are always insults galore. Most are merely inane, but some are genuinely memorable. Glee has wildly extravagant put-downs.

The other night, Sue Sylvester got a bit harsh with Shannon Beiste, the football coach at William McKinley High: “Why don’t you hurry on to your next face-widening session at the John Travolta Institute for Head Thickening and Facial Weight Gain?” At least the show had the good grace to illustrate the hurt caused to Coach Beiste. Then Beiste sang a song about it, as happens on Glee.

On another Glee this year there appeared an Irish kid, who was taken by Brittany to be a leprechaun. To the character Finn, a tough guy, the Irish kid was just a dork. In explaining things, Finn offered a wonderful insult to all America males: “In America, dudes don’t ask other dudes to be friends. Except on Facebook. But even then it can take years.”

Nice one. A list of insults from the year could go on and on. But we’ll stop there. Enough. Insults are fun, but let’s try to be nice at this time of the year.

Airing tonight

InSecurity (CBC, 8 p.m.) is one of several season finales tonight. Watch this one, though – a spoof of the Canadian spy world, vastly improved as comedy since its first season. Now it’s droll, deadpan workplace satire with good comic attention to the ridiculousness of government business. Natalie Lisinska as Alex the tall, big-eyed leader of the spy team, has emerged a very good comedienne.

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Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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