Without wanting to spoil last night's instalment of the 2020 edition of family favourite The Den, there's a bit of a story arc developing along the show's projected six-week run, as a certain ursine invader made his presence felt on-set behind the backs of the show's crew.
But while the nation wonders if Ray D'Arcy has one more wrestling match in him when the inevitable confrontation with longtime studio villain Ted comes, there was another brief comeback last night that set Irish social media off in a big way.
Zig and Zag's canine companion Zuppy barged in on proceedings early in the episode, in fine voice, and bearing in his jaws a wig that signalled the beginning of the show's main theme: a celebration of International Francis Brennan Day.
ZUPPY! I'M SO HAPPY I MIGHT CRY THIS IS THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY DECADE! #theDen— Miss Omens (@missomens) November 29, 2020
The show continued along that theme, with the presenters dressing as the hotelier and telly personality by the next segment, and later reaching the realisation that a parade in his honour marshalled by Westlife man Nicky Byrne would have to be cancelled.
The man himself appeared 'live' to give his blessings, and suffice it to say, November 29th has a new significance in the Irish pop-cultural calendar.
Thanks for all the ❤️ again and tuning into #TheDen yesterday! And never forget Nov 29th is forevermore #InternationalFrancisBrennanDay— ᴅᴏᴜʙʟᴇ ᴢ 💥 (@DoubleZCreative) November 30, 2020
Hugz from #ZigAndZag @RadioRayRTE @DustinOfficial @SineadQuinlan_ and thanx to our guest ⭐️ @NickyByrne @samanthamumba1 @francisbrennanb pic.twitter.com/7tt7d0HL4N
The reboot of the show has rewarded an eye for detail and a grá for the show's original run especially, which is likely no surprise.
The fleeting appearance of the blue mascot, though, after being conspicuous by his absence for the last three weeks, is just one of many little signs that this reunion is a very real labour of love for all involved.
Reverting to barking and plaintive whining, after serving out the latter part of his original time at the Den clucking like a chicken after receiving a bout of hypnosis, he came on the scene to warn the lads about an incoming Ted alert, hand off the goods regarding the big occasion, and then promptly tore into Zig with an unprovoked attack for old times' sake.
His appearance very nearly eclipsed the announcement of pop star Niall Horan's upcoming visit, in fact, promising to settle a long-standing score over being 'played off' at the last Den reunion this summer for RTÉ's Comic Relief special, to the chagrin of the Mullingar man's international fanbase.
More activity on the TL about ZUPPY than Niall Horan AS IT SHOULD BE #TheDen— Marie (@Morbegland) November 29, 2020
It also fit nicely with callbacks to Byrne's audition to succeed D'Arcy in the director's chair in 1998, as well as an appearance from the archives of Irish hip-hop legend DJ Mek, in his role as skratchologist on Zig & Zag's Christmas No. 1 single.
There's a lot to be said for the enduring appeal of the Den's furry family-member, really.
As with many non-verbal characters on film and in television, Zuppy's presence created rich potential for comedic misunderstandings, for the pathos that results when miscommunication sometimes has consequences, but also for tapping into the show's distinctly friendly anarchy.
Engaging in puppy-like destructive behaviours, at the expense of old studios and the person of co-presenter Zig alike, Zuppy's presence was a perfect comedic device, yet another layer amid the chaos and overexposure of a typical weekday afternoon on Network 2.
While The Den's return will likely be short and sweet, as all involved in its production are kept busy in 2020's media landscape, it's in little nods to the rich cultural experience they gave us as children that its appeal lies, doing justice to what made it special in a completely different time.
Good boy, Zuppy.