Saturday 16 December 2017

Television review: Republican 'rawk 'n' roll' is preaching to deaf ears

* Newsnight (BBC2)
* Creedon's Epic East (RTÉ1)

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump greets vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump greets vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Who are these people?

There are many illusions that sustain us in this life, in this country, but one of the most quaint of these is the notion that we understand America, that we have some idea how it works. But we don't really.

And in truth we don't even try to understand it - for example, routinely we will say that all these terrible TV programmes come from America, neglecting to mention that most of the best ones come from there too. We laugh at the fact that "many of them have no passports", and then complain that they're taking over the world.

So it seems that there are many Americas, and in one of them we get these people talking to us from the political conventions, with loud "rawk" music roaring away in the background. And in the foregound.

Several times over the last two weeks the presenter of a show such as Newsnight has started to interview someone who is speaking from the convention hall, and straight away it is clear that some "rawk" band is doing a soundcheck, or the disc spinner for the evening is testing his levels, and so the speaker has to start shouting and the presenter has to spend most of the time apologising.

What is that all about?

The Republican Party, in particular, seems to have this weird enthusiasm for really bad "rawk 'n' roll", which is all the more mysterious because rock 'n' roll in general has no enthusiasm for the Republican Party. Indeed it has been a ritual of American culture since Ronald Reagan tried to appropriate Born In The USA from Springsteen, for the artists to intervene to stop these terrible people using their work for their own vile purposes - Queen had to announce that they disapproved strongly of Trump arriving to the sounds of We Are The Champions.

So we have these people with this bizarre fetish for a music and a culture that is alien to them . . . and yet in a broader sense this is their culture. Rock 'n' roll, lest we forget, is not ours, it is not British or Norwegian, it is the great music of America. And the people who know it best are Americans, as are those who know it least.

Who are they, and what do they want?

Such fascinating questions of culture and society are not raised by the political reporters, either in their shouted conversations with their guests, or in their banter with various characters on the convention floor - even someone of the supposed seriousness of Newsnight's Emily Maitlis makes you wonder if there is much difference in spirit between what she is doing and what the excellent TV3 Xposé team are doing, just enjoying it all.

And of course there is a difference - the Xposé team are not pretending to be fierce interrogators of the contemporary American consciousness. Not much anyway.


John Creedon is a man who knows his "rawk", and his "roll", and from this he derives the moral authority which is his constant companion in Creedon's Epic East, part of the great national effort to draw attention to the eastern half of the country and its many treasures - 're- branding', I think is the term for this, as 'Creedo' swept though the counties of Meath, Monaghan and Louth as if they were all part of the same territory.

Which they are now.

What I like, in particular, about a relaxing Sunday evening show such as this, presented by a man who probably has a good record collection, is that it doesn't try to get too smart. So 'Creedo' will call to someone's house and the person will open the door, and they will pretend that this is what it seems - that the man of the house wasn't expecting to find John Creedon on his doorstep with a camera crew, but seeing as he's there, he's happy enough to go along with it.

I have done it myself a few times during my brief encounters with the TV trade, I recall the day that I walked into a pub in Dún Laoghaire about 20 times, and shook hands with the barman about 20 times, before they were happy to proceed.

With TV, even the smallest journey can be an epic.

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