Darragh McManus: Cutting Edge returns with a row - but how did it go overall?
Brendan O’Connor’s Cutting Edge was one of last season’s most unexpected delights on TV. It was also one of the year’s best shows, combining wit, snap, crack, smarts and honesty into a very entertaining blend of “roundtable discussion” telly.
Proof, I suppose, that sometimes good things happen for the wrong reasons – O’Connor, of course, was famously dropped from the Saturday night slot for returning prodigal Ray D’Arcy. And look how that turned out: poor Ray still struggles to rediscover his mojo, whereas Cutting Edge became an instant hit with audience and critics alike.
The show returned for a new series tonight. So how did it go? Like the Roman emperors of old, we have sat, watched and judged. But will it be the coveted thumbs up – or dreaded thumbs down?
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Tonight’s panel comprised Baz Ashmawy, Jen O’Connell and Brenda Power. The first-named is a likeable ould divil, the second-named I don’t actually know that much about, and the third-named is one of the soundest women in Irish media. I stress, “woman” – agree or disagree with her, Power, unlike many in our benighted profession, behaves and writes like a mature adult should.
The same (I think) as last year: a chuggin’ rock riff. Sounds like it could have been used on one of those Levis ads from the Nineties. (That’s a good thing, you unsophisticated oiks.)
Islamophobia and mooted bans on Muslim veils and face-coverings in various European countries. “Martyr mums” i.e. those annoying humble-braggers who pretend that parenting is this big ordeal whereas, Jen reckoned, it’s “not that hard and not that interesting”. Hugh Hefner, described by Brenda as a perv and a pimp. People drinking too much. Buying junk you don’t want in Lidl. Is it a waste of time to attend college? Ignoring your kids coz you have your head stuck in a phone (you’ve your head stuck in a phone right now, haven’t you?). Gwyneth Paltrow selling something to ward off vampires that are attacking your aura…I think? Oh, and also whether or not Leo Varadkar is “trying too hard to be cool” e.g. by going to gigs by LCD Soundsystem (one of those bands with a devoted but relatively small fan-base).
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Plenty, as per standard operating procedure. Baz described Leo going to an LCD Sound System gig thus: “Like bringing your dad to a Stormzy gig and him coming in a denim jacket with the sleeves cut off.” Brenda, meanwhile, wondered, “What better chance do you have to speak ill of someone than when they’re dead?” Ha ha, too true. (Yer man who died above in that place was a right ould bastard. Just getting it in there.)
Baz wheeling out the old line about Playboy having “damn good articles”. Really? Big fan of Normal Mailer and Gloria Steinem, yeah?
Like the very best weddings, Christmas parties or indeed any sort of social interaction ever, the show kicked off with a good row right at the start. Baz, in defending Muslim women’s right to cover their faces, made absolute wreckage of words and concepts like “empowerment”, “strong women”, “free choice” and even “kick-ass” – eh, if you say so. Brenda reckoned Austria was correct to ban full-face veils. Jennifer was very right-on, telling Brenda it was sexist and offensive to suggest that women don’t choose this gear: “I personally don’t like it but I respect their choice”. Brenda O’C was a sensible voice of reason in the middle of it all, saying, “We can all agree on everything, let’s not get into ‘isms’ and calling people sexist and this and that.”
Jennifer doing that annoying Irish thing of drawing a spurious correspondence between two unalike things – which are also separated by decades. In this instance, nuns wearing veils (which don’t cover the face), decades ago…vis-à-vis the issue of niqabs, burqas and all those other awful instruments of control, right now, in 2017. Not remotely the same thing. Goddamn, that is annoying, isn’t it?
Clever, funny, authentic and sometimes exciting telly: exactly what we expect from Cutting Edge, which has established an identity for itself remarkably quickly. Thumbs: assume the “up” position.