Sunday 20 January 2019

Television review: Book your return ticket Today

  • Today with Maura and Daithi (RTE1)
Maura Derrane and Daithi O Se on the Today set
Maura Derrane and Daithi O Se on the Today set
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

A while back, I thought I saw something in an article about Daithi O Se living in Galway and getting the bus to Cork each day for Today with Maura and Daithi on RTE1, which he presents with Maura Derrane.

I thought I saw that, but I may not actually have seen it. Most likely it was something that just flew past me on the internet, perhaps even a satirical piece, that I didn't stop to read, but that somehow stuck in my head anyway. Rightly or wrongly.

Not that it matters whether it's actually right or wrong (though I now believe that it is wrong), the important thing here is that I thought it might be right.

Admittedly I didn't give the matter much thought, as I must have had something even more pressing on my mind that day than the travel arrangements of the stars of daytime television.

But then a couple of weeks ago I found that I was going to be making the journey myself to join Daithi and Maura in Cork for a chat about the book Tony 10, along with my co-author Tony O'Reilly. And I swear that as I set out from south Wicklow on that day, I still had that mental image of Daithi leaving Galway at roughly the same time, using the excellent service provided by Bus Eireann.

Once I had given the matter any thought, I realised that this was probably a tad unrealistic, but again that doesn't matter - all that matters is that for a few moments at least, I thought that it could happen.

Any star of daytime TV or indeed of night-time TV would pay fortunes to PR advisers in order to find themself in such a place in the psyche of even one viewer, regarded as being so "down to earth" they'd take the bus - a bit like that ancient image of the storied English footballers who might be mingling with the fans on the Clapham omnibus on the way to the game.

Mind you, I realise that this "down-to-earth" thing can be a bit overused. The comedy writer Arthur Mathews has noted how often it is said that some celebrity turned out be very down to earth when you met him, so that even when Arthur met the famously avant-garde musician Brian Eno, he found himself thinking that Eno was … very down to earth.

Daithi though seems to have established himself at the very core of the earth that the others are down to, and all this may help to explain why Today… is, shall we say, a good vehicle for all who travel in it.

Many have remarked on the positive chemistry between Daithi and Maura, but then you could hardly have any other kind of chemistry with a man who, in the mind's eye, might well have made his journey to the studio on public transport.

And there is also something about the overall workings of the programme that creates a decent atmosphere, a thing we might call its Cork-ness. It's a more, well, down-to-earth experience to be in this relatively small building, and not the great TV warehouses of Montrose.

But it's a subtle Cork-ness, whereby members of the Dublin metropolitan media are not excluded, and you might find a Fiona Looney or an Ian O'Doherty or an Anton Savage talking about the state of the world, just like they would in Donnybrook - except with the advantage of having made that journey through the Irish countryside, just like Daithi. Except probably on the train. And acknowledging that, in truth, Daithi is probably driven there most days in a fast car.

Regardless of such mundane actualities, the higher truth is that he and Maura are in a good place here - not far from the old Phoenix Bar on Union Quay indeed - and that they have established the identity of this show, to the extent that they could be doing it in a successful manner for the next 10 or even 20 years, if they so wished.

By which time Daithi would nearly be eligible for the free travel, for the bus pass itself.

It's too late to stop now, and it will certainly be too late to stop then.

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