Sunday 23 October 2016

Television: Full Irish Breakfast TV is now served

* Sunday AM (TV3)
* Johnny Rotten (Sky News)
* Newsnight (BBC2)

Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan

Politics is easy. If literature has about seven basic plots, then you can get through a lifetime in politics on about seven basic cliches - though most practitioners and reporters manage to get by on three or four at the most.

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It could never be enough for any well-rounded individual, and so you have an Ivan Yates who has grown from his juvenile phase as a government minister to his current eminence as the accomplished co-presenter of TV3's Sunday AM.

With his morning radio show on weekdays, he has at least two serious jobs now. And with the TV show there is an interesting challenge, bringing full Irish breakfast television to Paddy on mornings when he has never known such a thing.

But for Ivan and co-hosts Anna Daly and Tommy Martin there is the precedent of Ireland AM, whereby TV3 is already doing a show on weekdays that is very similar to this, taking advantage of RTE's reluctance in this area, its preference for what it wrongly sees as "serious" broadcasting, and its apparent inability to get up so early in the morning.

In our culture, Sunday mornings have traditionally been a time for radio rather than television, starting off these days with Sunday Miscellany which is strangely similar to what Sunday Mass used to be, but of course more pious in tone.

It may take a while for us to get used to turning on the telly for Sunday AM, but then there was a time when we used to spend our Sunday afternoons doing things other than watching top action from the Barclay's Premier League - how did we get through those terrible, empty years?


SO politics is easy and entertainment is hard, and yet I faced a challenge to this essential truth when Newsnight did a feature on the new Duran Duran album - there was no special reason for this, no connection to the situation in Somalia or anything, it really was just Kirsty Wark talking to Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes in their studio about the new Duran Duran album.

With Paxman now out of the way, we will no longer see scandalous scenes like his bored introduction to an obituary piece on the work of Lou Reed. But with Newsnight rightly seeing cultural topics as being at least as important as anything the "hilarious" Boris Johnson might have to say, perhaps we hadn't quite anticipated a straightforward piece on Duran Duran.

We also suspect that Newsnight did it because they thought members of the political elite could identify with it, remembering nights long ago in Annabel's of London.

Yet we agreed with the choice of subject matter on principle, and we look forward to members of Spandau Ballet analysing the Budget.

More troubling was the sight of Johnny Rotten invited by Sky News to offer his views on the queen - he maintained that he was opposed to the institution, not the person. And while the choice of commentator was admirable, with Rotten as intelligent and as thoroughly reasonable as he was on the day he recorded God Save The Queen, I was saddened by the demeanour of interviewer Adam Boulton and by the Sky News crew in general who seemed completely delighted with old Johnny, and indeed with themselves for asking him.

Rotten is now beyond any doubt viewed as a British institution as loveable in a perverse way as old Harold Steptoe, as eccentric as Screaming Lord Sutch, as ageless as the queen herself.

But Newsnight eventually made the right choice with its invitation to the cross-cultural force that is Will Self to talk about "her majesty".

"Selfie" spoke about the chattering classes, and how they feel that loving the queen is for the little people but not necessarily for them, "a real de haut en bas attitude" as he put it.

It is surely the mark of a grown-up society that a man can use the term "de haut en bas" on live television while giving no indication that he should be in any way ashamed of himself. He didn't even bother with the air-quotes, to warn that he was about to use a bit of French - he just left it there.

Which leaves us with just this question: if Will Self wants to remind himself of something, does he write a Note to Self?

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