Friday 17 August 2018

Television review: O'Connor cutting to the quick


Brendan O'Connor on 'Cutting Edge'
Brendan O'Connor on 'Cutting Edge'
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It was Henry David Thoreau who wrote that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" - and Thoreau lived during the first half of the 19th century, a time of fewer distractions when the mass of men probably had less to be quietly desperate about than they do today.

I don't know about the mass of men living in Ireland in these early years of the 21st century, but certainly this man is leading a life which, regardless of whatever direction it takes, will be haunted by this question: could I not do what Brendan O'Connor does?

He's back again now with a fourth series of his Cutting Edge programme, and there I am again, asking myself that question - and still getting the same answer. Evidently not.

I mean, we are both in roughly the same line of business in this inky trade of ours, writing articles about some of the great events of the week - and though he seems to be able to write them a lot quicker than I can, leaving him free to perform other editorial tasks, this does not bring me any quiet desperation.

It is only when I see him doing his TV show that it starts, quietly at first, and then… still quietly, but with no less desperation.

He had Maia Dunphy, Jennifer O'Connell and Niall Boylan on last week, and there he was, setting them up to say their pieces, coming and in and going out of the conversation when it was appropriate, striking the right tone and all that stuff. Could I not do that?

In truth I probably couldn't even do whatever Maia Dunphy and Jennifer O'Connell were doing there, but I thought for a while I could do better than what radio presenter Boylan was doing, once he started using words like "lefty politicians" - I would never descend to such banalities.

And then Boylan made a contribution to a discussion about the Catholic Church, in which he described his own experiences of being adopted, of being a product of the old Catholic system of trading in new-born babies for all sorts of disgraceful reasons, and he told it in a way that was really moving - so there was another thing that I couldn't do.

O'Connor handled that one sensitively too, saying the right thing at the right time, as is his wont.

Could I have done that?

Well, as it happens, I was on television myself last Tuesday night, talking about the book Tony 10 on The Tonight Show on TV3 with Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates, and when Ivan wondered if he was getting the whole story, I had this riposte for him: "Ivan, the journalist Brian Boyd wrote that there's more drama in Chapter 10 alone of Tony 10, than you'd get in a year's subscription to Netflix - what the f*** more do you want?"

Ah it was quite a riposte, I'm sure you'll agree. There really was no answer to that one - or so it seemed to me anyway when I thought of it, about three days after the show.

That's all it took for me, to nail that one - about 72 hours, give or take.

If I could speed up my reaction time just a bit, maybe bring that 72 hours down to… oh, about half a second… maybe one day I could do what O'Connor is doing. Though to be fair, he is one of the quickest in the business.

Clearly I do not possess those natural attributes, though perhaps I could work on them in conversations with family and friends. I'm sure O'Connor does a bit of that too, sharpening up his TV repartee in real-life situations.

Then I'd just need a bit of advice on clothes and grooming, a bit of a dress sense, because you have to look right too. And I'd need the camera to like me a bit more than it does, and I'd need something else too, some… charisma or something.

I suppose that's the thing that makes men most desperate, in a quiet way, when we look at these fellows presenting TV programmes, that we are somehow not presenting - it is just so easy.

Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge (RTE1)


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