After learning of the impending cancellation of this childhood gem, Rebecca Windsor reacquainted herself with The Den
Ah the nineties, how glorious they were. We all remember those leggings, tie-dyed T-shirts and primary school-related mishaps involving the ground and some apparently expendable limb. It would be utter blasphemy to suggest that somewhere out there in UCD exists someone who doesn’t know at least one line of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.
Of course the nineties were also the years in which this generation first became acquainted with The Den – a show with all those glorious moments and characters which had such an impact on our formative years.
The show was first aired in 1986 under the command of DJ Ian Dempsey. Succeeding his claim to the throne was current household name Ray D’Arcy, followed by Damien McCaul, Frances Boylan and more recently, a joint presenter scheme. The show has undergone a few title changes in its time; however one will recall that The Den as we remember it, both in title and spirit, was presented by Ray D’Arcy.
Indeed most of our generation’s fondest memories of the show will undoubtedly involve watching his broadcasts, whether they came from the treehouse, the chipper van, the UFO or the newsroom. The Den was kid’s time, a time when we were reminded that there was more to viewing than the news at 6pm and the news at 9pm.
In fact The Den will often be remembered for poking fun at those esteemed Irish personalities such as Pat Kenny, through the reference made to his (fictional) internet guide being “an insufferable bore”. Another individual to fall victim to the programme’s ribbing was Mary Robinson, as she was accused of having “smelly feet” during an appearance on the show.
The Den also conjures up deep-seated memories of those anthropomorphic creatures and monsters we all came to know and really love. Zig and Zag were the fist puppets on the show, having arrived from their home planet Zog in the search for new jokes. The zany Zag was responsible for introducing Dustin the Turkey into the show: he won him in a game of golf against radio presenter Ronan Collins.
Dustin himself was quite the talented turkey; remember the flap flaps? Not to mention his brush with musical fame following the release of his Irish Christmas number one song: ‘Christmas Tree’.
Socky, the sock monster, is among the most loved of the puppets. One can be sure that several readers pestered their parents until a blue bucket, as similar to his as possible, was purchased. One can also be sure that some readers sent in their smelly socks as a gift for the madcap monster.
Snotser, another Den fixture, was quite an interesting creation given that his identity as a pig was kept secret for some time. Until then, he had simply been featured as an amorphous high-pitched voice.
Ted was a character under no illusions as to his physical presence. Readers will remember that he was the crazed monster hell-bent on attacking Ray at the end of every show. Now some puppets can be quite creepy (Chucky anyone?) and Podge was no exception, with his bulging eyes. He delighted in causing mayhem and often times tricked Zag into all manner of evil goings-on.
Aside from these creatures and TV personalities, the show also featured holiday specials – the most memorable being the Christmas one. After all, Christmas time always meant Den time.
Those unfortunate enough to have a propensity for awakening extra early on Christmas were kept somewhat sedated from 6am until 1pm by the show’s variety of Christmas capers. We all remember those Grinch-like storylines and Christmas conundrums. There was the year that Podge locked Santa into a cabinet in an effort to ruin Christmas. Naturally, Ray managed to thwart the evil puppet’s dastardly scheme.
There was also the year that Rudolph’s nose stopped shining, thrusting the Yuletide celebrations into chaos. The Den was broadcast live on Christmas day and one can remember thinking how horrible it must be to forgo the festivities in favour of work, yet fearing the day that the live shows would cease. In later years this practice was in fact stopped and instead, re-runs of old Christmas specials were aired.
There are so many memorable incidents and characters on the show, it is impossible to mention them all here. This was a wonderful article to write and many fond memories have since resurfaced involving The Den and its unique sense of madness. However, this is not quite the end of The Den as we remember it; there is a DVD entitled The Golden Years set to be released soon. It features all those moments that made the show something special. So fear not, where there is a DVD player, there is very much a way.