Tuesday 25 June 2019

Ryan O'Neal's daughter joins the greatest TV gaffes of all time

Actor Ryan O'Neal's lewd remark about his daughter on last week's Late Late Show was met with widespread shock, joining the worst ever episodes of car-crash TV

Tom Cruise on the Oprah Winfrey Show
Tom Cruise on the Oprah Winfrey Show
Ryan O'Neal at RTE for The Late Late Show
George Best

Damian Corless

The Late Late Show, last Friday, was car-crash TV at its most jarring. The 70s Hollywood heart-throb Ryan O'Neal was the guest, and as host Ryan Tubridy said later, it was "weird". Weird and disturbing.

Having spoken movingly about the loss of his wife Farrah Fawcett to cancer, O'Neal made a lewd joke about his Oscar-winning daughter, Tatum. He said: "I haven't been with anyone since. How do you follow that girl? Well I could be with Tatum, I guess, but it's a little late in the game."

Tubridy's jaw hit his desk. The audience gasped, and social media went into a tizzy of outrage. If that wasn't enough, the actor threw in an off-colour remark about Tatum's tennis legend ex-husband John McEnroe, shouting "it was in" on the couple's honeymoon. But bad as the episode was, it also illustrated one of the great strengths of the chat show - the possibility that something can go wrong, and often does. As proof, here are five of the best from the archives.

1. The Late Late Show

From the outset, RTÉ's flagship show has been throwing up memorable moments. During an early debate, a young student, Brian Trevaskis, caused a furore when he accused the Bishop of Galway of squandering funds on "a monstrosity" of a new cathedral, instead of using it to help the poor. Then, the producers had a very bad idea. The student was dragged back the next week to apologise. This time, he elaborated his view that the bishop was "a moron".

In 1999, Fianna Fáil's Pádraig Flynn just couldn't get enough rope when he complained that it was a tough life maintaining three houses and housemaids on his huge EU commissioner's salary. In 1992, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Peter Brooke, also dug a hole for himself. After a bland chat, host Gay Byrne prevailed on the reluctant Brooke to sing. He crooned 'My Darling Clementine'. Only hours earlier, the IRA had killed eight civilian builders at a British army base. Unionists called for Brooke's head, and he was soon "reshuffled" out of his job. A decade earlier, Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing appeared in an emotional state, slurring his words and supplying curt answers to Gaybo's questions. The host snapped and upbraided his guest for "drinking so much" beforehand. "Dhrink! Dhrink!" responded Laing, Fr Jack style. He later admitted: "I may have had a couple of small ones, but I thought it was going to be like a little chat by the living room fire, rather than some interrogation."

2. Oliver Reed

A free bar in the green room was held to blame when the late actor, who is buried in Cork, performed an impromptu alcohol-fuelled song and dance on Michael Aspel's chat show in 1987. On another drunken occasion, on The Late Late Show, Reed threw himself on actress Susan George and knocked her off her seat. During a cringeworthy piece of TV, Reed dragged her behind the set and leapt on her, treating the audience to the unedifying sight of two pairs of legs akimbo.

3. Bernard Levin

In 1963, the critic Bernard Levin was a guest on David Frost's live BBC chat show. What followed wasn't quite a gaffe by Levin, but in one sense, it was self-inflicted. The Irish writer Desmond Leslie left his seat in the audience and approached Levin, telling him: "Just a minute Mr Levin, this will only take a minute." With 11 million viewers watching, Leslie then unleashed a vicious right-hook into the critic's face. Levin's crime had been to pan the latest play by Leslie's wife.

4. Footballers

After a dismal draw with Egypt in the 1990 World Cup, Eamon Dunphy flung his pen in disgust in the RTÉ studio. He never said in that heated moment that he was ashamed to be Irish, but people heard what they wanted to. It launched his career as a hate-figure. He recalled how, leaving Dublin Airport afterwards, "one woman called me and took a photo. I was smiling. As soon as she'd taken the photo she shouted 'Ya f***ing bastard!'" That evening, a group of fans drumming up a rousing version of "You'll never beat the Irish" on his car, with him inside.

In 1990, George Best made an infamous appearance on the BBC show Wogan, where Terry asked what he liked to do with his time. "Screw," he replied. Afterwards, Wogan described Best as being "as drunk as a skunk". "I could see him coming at me from across the stage, his eyes were glazed and I knew the worst had happened," Wogan said.

Ron Atkinson's big gaffe didn't come on a chat show, but it will linger long in the memory. In 2004, following an Champions League game, Atkinson said of Chelsea's Marcel Desally: "He's what is known in some schools as a ..." The rest doesn't bear repeating, but featured the words lazy and thick. The racist slur, made when he thought he was off-air, went out in the Middle East. Big Ron apologised but lost his ITV gig, his Guardian column and €1.5m in commercial contracts. He reflected: "I'd have been better off shooting someone."

5. Tom Cruise

In 2005, Cruise went ga-ga on the Oprah Winfrey Show, punching the air and wrestling with his host. He made a demented declaration of undying love for his latest squeeze, Katie Holmes, and generally behaved like a deranged ape. Cruise was dropped by Paramount after 14 years with the studio. "You are gone," Winfrey said, attempting to calm him as she nervously eyed up her best getaway route.

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