Saturday 3 December 2016

Brendan O'Connor v Pat Kenny: Who won the chatshow war?

Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge went head-to-head with Pat Kenny Tonight on Wednesday night. Who fared better?

Published 20/10/2016 | 11:14

(L-R) Brendan O'Connor, Can't Cope Won't Cope writer Stefanie Preissner and Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick
(L-R) Brendan O'Connor, Can't Cope Won't Cope writer Stefanie Preissner and Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick

It’s the wonderful circle of life: just as boxer Tyson Fury announces his retirement and everyone starts to get a bit bored with Conor McGregor, fight-fans are saved by the return of Cutting Edge.

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Last night saw Brendan O’Connor’s talk-show return to RTE One. Which meant, of course, that it was going toe-to-toe with TV3’s offering, Pat Kenny Tonight. (Fun fact: technically, the show is registered with the Broadcasting Commission as Pat Kenny* and Colette Fitzpatrick But For Some Odd Reason That Nobody Seems to Understand We’re Not Going to Mention Her in the Actual Title As In Like the One That Goes to Air Every Week…Tonight.)

Two heavyweights (three, including Colette) of Irish broadcasting, facing off against each other in the brutal, vicious, merciless death-cage that is midweek television. So who came out on top? Here – using our patented and needlessly complicated scoring system – is the tale of the tape:

Cutting Edge

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1. Guests

George Hook, Norah Casey and Stefanie Preissner in the roundtable discussion, plus David Coleman for a monologue on (mainly teenage) drinking. All three panellists were excellent. Better yet, all were different, but their differences sparked off each other really nicely. Score: 9/10

2. Topics

Kim Kardashian, a Dublin tourist board slogan, last night’s American Presidential debate and associated issues, the Ched Evans rape case, breastfeeding, death, burials, dying – the Holy Trinity of Irish conversation – and being driven and obsessive in work and in life. Score: 6/10

3. Humour

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Yeah, lot of fun. O’Connor is mischievous and funny anyway, but his three main panellists all got on board and had some craic along with the more reflective moments. And Stefanie Preissner’s facial expressions at some of Hooky’s rants – already internet memes all on their on - were priceless. Score: 8/10

4. Gaffes

Nobody seemed to realise that Ched Evans’ career hasn’t, in fact, been finished by his court case – he currently plays for Chesterfield. Score: 5/10

5. Theme music

Rockin’! Like the lead-in riff to the best song by an otherwise only alright late-1990s post-grunge band. That’s actually more of a compliment than it probably sounds. Score: 7/10

6. Best bit

The way Cutting Edge feels like an authentic chat between a small group of smart, interesting people. They’re doing something quite different from the norm here: brisk-paced but not rushed, leisurely but not ponderous. The show doesn’t have the irritating, forced-antagonistic “bear-pit” ambience of traditional current affairs telly. But neither is it po-faced or self-regarding, like say an arts’ discussion show can be. It’s just…authentic. Which makes it really rather good. Score: 9/10

7. Worst bit

I’m still not sure about the different sections this is divided into: “On the Slab” and so on. I don’t think the programme needs any kind of gimmickry, it’s good enough on talk alone. Score: -3/10

Total: 41/70

Pat Kenny (*And Colette Fitzpatrick) Tonight

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1. Guests

The General Secretary of the Garda Retired Members Association, the President of the Garda Retired Members Association, Justin Moran of the charity Age Action, Robert O’Shea from Save Our Local Communities, retired Garda inspector Brian Sherry, journalist Cormac O’Keeffe, Dr Gerard McMahon who lectures in industrial relations at DIT, Minister of State Eoghan Murphy, secondary teacher Madeleine Ni Gallchoir, another teacher called Sean, a primary teacher called Emily, school principal Gerry, Rebecca from the National Parent’s Council (some of these people’s surnames not given, this isn’t just me being lazy/sloppy), Ed Byrne the President of TUI… at this point we still weren’t halfway through the show and I stopped counting. Score: 11 (yes, really) for quantity, 7 for quality. So 9/10 on balance.

2. Topics

Impending industrial action from gardai, teachers and doctors, in that order – shudder. The kind of thing to give multiple orgasms to a certain class of current affairs nerd, but give a headache and/or minor nervous breakdown to a certain class of me. Score: 6/10

3. Humour

Very little. You read the “topics” bit, yes? Score: -3/10

4. Gaffes

Nothing major springs to mind, though Donegal teacher Eimear Doran’s diatribe probably came closest, especially her claim that “€6,000 (of an increase over two years) is not enough”. Huh? Score: -2/10

5. Theme music

Fairly standard den-den-den-DEN-den de-DEN-den current affairs-y type thing. You know what I mean, you could probably make a decent fist at humming the melody even if you’d never heard it before. Score: 4/10

6. Best bit

Pat and Colette’s command of their brief is impressive. Personally I find the format of this show fairly predictable and unexciting, but they’re both fine broadcasters, especially Kenny: the Big Dog of Irish current affairs TV. People slag him off as being wooden – which he can be – but the guy is excellent when the subject matter is serious. Score: 8/10

7. Worst bit

The sheer number of people involved. Too many interviewees becomes something of a cacophony eventually. Score: -3/10

Total: 19/70

Champion: By a late-round knockout, Cutting Edge is the new undisputed heavyweight champion. The show may now proceed to thank its trainer, mother, fans and “the Lord Jesus, in whom all things are possible”.

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