Sunday 17 December 2017

Television review: Pictures on radio are good, but they're better on TV

* Eurovision Song Contest (RTE1)
* Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge (RTE1)

Norah Casey
Norah Casey
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

There is a terrible urge in showbusiness, in life itself, to complicate things. How crushing it was, for example, to discover that after watching the Eurovision for several hours, following its stately progress, it was all swept away in a few minutes of demented voting.

For a thousand years or thereabouts, the jury system had worked perfectly, with each country assembling a panel of light entertainment hacks and smoothies and men with toupees and other such seasoned professionals to run the rule over the entries and arrive invariably at the right result.

It worked so well, it became an international cliche that everyone watched the Eurovision "for the voting". Then one day some fool decided that everyone in Europe, or at least in Eurovision, should be able to vote. Hundreds of millions of them.

That the simple, successful system needed to be "shaken up" by a more complicated system which was sure to be corrupted, so that a fake veneer of modernity might be applied to the grand old contest.

And when that didn't work, for reasons that should have been obvious, they went to a weird hybrid, a combination of the hacks with the toupees and the texting multitudes, and variations thereof, until finally it all went kaput last Saturday night.

Which brings us naturally to Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge, and the pleasing simplicity of it, the essential goodness of having O'Connor and three guests sitting around quite a small table, talking about the state of the world and perhaps even the state of their own souls.

Though this was the first episode, the foundations already seemed solid enough to promise a successful run. O'Connor is extraordinarily bright, with that proven ability to function at a high level of awareness on live television, and if anything of value is to be extracted from his guests, he will find it.

That's what the show is about, a man of some emotional intelligence and just intelligence, who is in charge without dominating. And three other people who may or may not be bringing something to the party, and if they are, that's great, and if they're not, what this may reveal about them might work too.

Chris Donoghue, Norah Casey (below) and Pat Shortt were the opening three, and soon it was clear that the beauty of a simple structure is the way it allows complications to arise naturally, as they do in any proper conversation.

Casey, for example, was better than I thought she'd be. In general I disapprove of business people being allowed much time on TV or radio, because with their intense single-mindedness and the fact that they have a lot of money, they tend to know very little about the real world - much less than, say, writers or musicians.

But she is so articulate, it is almost a performance in itself. She may actually be the most articulate person in Ireland, like one of those English types you see on the BBC's Any Questions, who just talk much better than us.

Pat Shortt, as himself, seemed always willing to see the good in people, which is a most admirable quality in a human being, maybe not so much in a man trying to entertain us after watching Liverpool getting beaten in the Europa League Final, but I guess you need a bit of kindness too, in this brutal business.

Donoghue is impressive in many ways and not only will he be back on this show, he may one day own the world. It will be said that this is "a radio show on TV" which merely tells us something about those who would state something that seems so obvious, yet is so wrong.

There is a big difference between a radio show and this TV show, I have found, and it is this: on the television, you can see moving pictures.

And that can help you see a lot of things, that you can't see on the radio - yes I know some people prefer radio because "the pictures are better" but they too are wrong. The pictures are much better on television. But maybe the key to the Cutting Edge..., the device that makes it seem familiar yet somehow different, is that four people are talking and talking and talking around a table....and there are no phones.

How did they think of that?

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