Tonight with Vincent Browne review: 'It was billed an epic tussle but was more a game of current affairs slap and tickle'
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was in studio for the penultimate episode
It was Vincent Browne’s second last night on TV3 and, to mark the occasion, the Taoiseach had been cajoled into the hot seat. In one corner harrumphed a left wing presenter with scary eye-brows – in the other sat a beaming boy-politician. Sparks would surely fly.
Yet what had been billed an epic tussle turned out to be more a game of current affairs slap-and-tickle. Browne delivered his traditional Marxist debating society talking points, Varadkar batted away the insinuation that he was a right wing loon without ever saying much of substance.
The broadcast threatened to come alive just once as, right at the start, Browne quipped that Enda Kenny would be coming on to assess his successor’s performance. A glimmer of existential terror flashed across Varadkar’s face, replaced by relief when Vincent revealed he was joking.
There was a cuddly conclusion, meanwhile, with Varadkar praising Browne for his tenacity as a journalist and the TV3 arch inquisitor congratulating the Taoiseach for having once admitted he was wrong about something on radio.
Browne has always been a spiky interrogator but unlike broadcasters to whom he is frequently compared, such as former BBC attack dog Jeremy Paxman, he isn’t afraid to take sides.
These Rottweiler tendencies can make for amusing late night spectacle. However, sometimes he merely resembles a dog with a bone, such as when he hounded Varadakar for getting up at a tardy-ish 6.45 am.
Still, as theatre his penultimate TV3 show had its moments. Browne sighed and huffed whenever Varadkar prevaricated, then smiled like a kindly uncle when wishing the young politician well. Irish current affairs broadcasting often resembles a pulseless echo chamber – regardless of whether you agree with Browne and his willingness to advocate on behalf of a particular perspective, the airwaves will be far duller when he’s gone.Five things we learned from Leo Varadkar’s final appearance on 'Tonight with Vincent Browne'