Sunday 23 October 2016

Television review: Now we all know for sure which is 'the toy department'

* The Andrew Marr Show (BBC1)
* The Fall (RTE1)

Published 03/10/2016 | 02:30

Andrew Marr
Andrew Marr

In the game of damage limitation, there is a fine old tradition that the person in a spot of bother tries to avoid the more serious type of journalistic scrutiny. That if they are going to do an interview, they will do it with someone who is not very well informed, who will give them a soft ride.

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Thus they can say that they haven't "avoided the questions", even though the questions probably weren't asked, or were asked in such a way as to allow the damage-limitator a certain latitude.

Which is all very understandable, except for one thing: there is a media cliche that the "hard" interview will always be done by the Current Affairs types, and the "fluffy" one by the sort of folk who sit on multi-coloured couches on daytime TV telling people they're great. That what you don't want is somebody who is used to interrogating the country's leader you want someone who'll ask you what your favourite colour is, and who will not push it if you don't wish to talk about such a sensitive matter.

But the readers of this column know that this is not necessarily how it works at all, that in truth some of the least serious people on television are the ones who fancy themselves as "Paxman" types, it's just that they don't know they're not serious - indeed they're not serious enough, to be able to form such an insight.

And meanwhile they disparage other areas such as sports as "the toy department". Or at least they did until last weekend when we found out once and for all where the real toy department is located.

The Team Sky cycling team, which is renowned for the mastery with which it handles the media - it is, after all, an offshoot of a media corporation - has been in a spot of bother in relation to doping controversies which involve one of its leading riders, Sir Bradley Wiggins.

So they did one TV interview, and we can be sure that in deciding which one to do, they did a fair bit of the old due diligence. And these very clever people decided that the best place for Sir Bradley to be was on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning on BBC1, and how right they were.

The quintessential BBC political journalist, Marr displayed all the limitations of his breed. He had a superficial understanding of these very important matters, an attitude which naturally arises from the fact that deep down he attaches far more significance to things like the naming of the new shadow cabinet. He didn't know enough, and he didn't show much sign that he had sought the help of those who do. He just didn't get it.

He even moved away from the issue of doping to engage Sir Bradley in talk about Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May, and other such banter which is exactly how Team Sky would have wanted it. We were now deep into the what-is-your-favourite-colour zone.


But the coming men and women on TV now are beyond politics or even sport, they are surgeons.

Most nights now it seems I am watching a major operation being performed. The first episode of the new series of The Fall had Jamie Dornan being wheeled into the emergency room and opened up by the crack team at the fictional Belfast General Hospital, who would break away from their life-saving work only to muse on the ethical complexities of devoting all these energies to the treatment of a person who has done such very bad things.

They're doing it in real life too - I enjoyed several emergency operations recently on the BBC series, An Hour To Save Your Life, and the RTE series Keeping Ireland Alive: the Health Service in a Day has been exemplary in showing us all sorts of procedures being performed and directed by these charismatic professionals.

There seems little reason now to keep the cameras out of any operating theatre at any time - it seems inevitable that we will have a channel fully dedicated to surgery of all kinds, with perhaps the relatively minor operations in the afternoon.

And I need hardly add that you'll be able to bet on the outcomes.

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