Sunday 19 November 2017

Brendan O'Connor back for another cut


Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge RTÉ1

If talk is cheap, then we're surely the richest country in the world.

After a summer of TV doldrums, the talk shows are back and we now have more chat than Alan Partridge.

In fact, you could say that we have so much talk on our screens that it's now coming out of our ears, rather than going into them.

Claire Byrne Live is a solid show from a solid presenter who has become an increasingly self-assured presence on screen.

Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick have their work cut out for them on TV3's Pat Kenny Tonight, but while the senior presenter is a veteran, Fitzpatrick is hardly a newbie and, a few inevitable glitches apart, there is plenty of scope for that particular programme to stake its claim for the viewers.

Tonight with Vincent Browne is the weakest by a country mile. But that show has relied on the eccentricities and weird, theatrical exasperation of the presenter for so long now that it has either become such a part of the landscape that people no longer talk about it, or else it has become simply irrelevant. Frankly, the jury has been out on that issue for so long now that there's probably no point in even expecting an answer.

Tonight sees the return of Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge and, on the basis of the first series, that should be a cause for relief.

O'Connor has had a typical career with RTÉ. By 'typical career', I mean that he had been lauded as the great white hope before being publicly defenestrated from his Saturday night slot just when it looked like he was getting the hang of it.

In truth, the format of Cutting Edge probably suits him better - rather than engaging with micro celebrities on issues which are of little interest to anyone other than their fans, this show sees him as moderator/circus ring master while some guests sit around a table and have a row.

It's a strange fact of television that sometimes the simplest ideas are the hardest ones to execute properly, but there were signs in the first season that there is something interesting lurking in this programme.

There were certainly enough spiky moments in the last run, with a few interesting clashes between the guests, which at least provide the hope that this is one programme that won't be hamstrung by the mendacious desire for 'balance' or 'impartiality'.

The slogan for widely derided Fox News is 'fair and balanced' and while that assertion has come in for plenty of scrutiny, they will have to be on their best behaviour tonight with the Trump v Clinton debate.

The last debate was a surreal, almost hallucinatory affair. It was both exhilarating and depressing - expect even more of the same later on.

Roll on November 9. Or maybe not.

Irish Independent

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