Friday 15 December 2017

Television review: One glass of wine but not two, two but not three...

Cutting Edge (RTE1)

Brendan O’Connor on the set of his new RTÉ series. Photo: Andres Poveda
Brendan O’Connor on the set of his new RTÉ series. Photo: Andres Poveda
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

One of the mysteries of TV is how to get your guests on to the show in the right condition, neither entirely drunk or completely sober, but in some state of altered consciousness which will enable them to have a row more or less straight away, without it getting too ugly.

Drink, of course, was traditionally seen as the great facilitator in this regard, with various theories as what was the optimum intake - some would say that one glass of wine was perfect, one glass but not two. Which in Ireland could easily turn into two being perfect, but not three, three being perfect but not four, and so on until such time as the guest would leave the RTE hospitality suite with the intention of walking down to the studio, only to miss the show entirely by taking a few wrong turns in the labyrinth of Montrose, eventually finding himself on the way out of RTE and somehow arriving eventually at the Cork Jazz Festival, just in time for the last few numbers of the night from BB King.

But enough about me, this has been a perennial issue in the TV game, and even more so now that alcohol is no longer seen as a valid solution to all human problems. I gave it up myself a long time ago, so if I ever go on television, I have to figure out some way of arriving at that mystical one-glass-of-wine-but not-two state, without having that one glass. To be feeling that slight euphoria which the studio audience gets from being "warmed up" by several comedians.

Cutting Edge seems to have cracked it. No matter who they are, Brendan O'Connor's guests are ready to go, they have been through the proverbial check-in and have sorted out their baggage and have passed through security and are waiting at the proverbial gate, ready to go.

Last week it was Norah Casey, George Hook and Stefanie Preissner, writer of the recent Can't Cope, Won't Cope, the hit drama series on RTE2 which was ostensibly about young women up from "the country" trying to enjoy themselves in Dublin without ruining their lives somewhere along the journey towards full-blown alcoholism (it still goes on apparently). But which perhaps drew its true strength from the fact that it has many resonances for almost any young person who ever came up from "the country" to Dublin, who went on that journey - which would probably be several million of us, over time.

Preissner certainly wouldn't have needed the traditional wine to get her started here, nor would Hook or Casey who are both steeped in the game, Casey's contribution here having an extra dimension in that it was her first such appearance since a terrible health crisis which of course O'Connor asked her to talk about, which brings us to the other essential element in Cutting Edge.

Not only are the guests "on" from the start, the show seeks to free itself from one of the great inhibitors of good broadcasting, this ancient fetish for "covering the ground". Whenever any group of radio or TV journalists are gathered together, they have this uncontrollable urge to "cover" things that they think they should be covering - which are not necessarily the things that anyone wants them to cover, but they don't care about that.

If such people were allowed near Cutting Edge, they might be insisting that there should be a debate about the teachers' strike, or about the morale of the gardai, about what the Budget means, because... well because there should.

So many "current affairs" programmes on radio and TV are dying out there because they mostly contain stuff that somebody thinks "should" be done, and that anyway has been done already by a lot of other programmes, rather than stuff that would be good.

O'Connor would be having none of that, you may be sure. Here we had Trump and Hillary, we had the Ched Evans rape case, we had illness and excessive drinking and death and dying and a bit of breastfeeding. What else is there indeed?

But no doubt guests to come may feel this pressure to be at the right level, and who knows? I see the Cork Jazz Festival is on again soon...

Sunday Independent

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