Ed Power: Vincent Browne must be rolling his eyes - as TV3's new The Tonight Show gets off to a meek start
The Tonight Show, TV3: Three stars
So it was farewell to Vincent Browne and his Eyebrows of Incredulity. And a big hello to Matt and Ivan. Or was it Ivan and Matt?
In theory, the new presenters of the TV3 late night news broadcast formerly known as Tonight With Vincent Browne shared equal billing. Matt Cooper’s name was listed first on the TV3 website – but in the publicity photographs Ivan Yates outshone his co-host with his blinding beige suit.
Despite both being white middle class males of roughly the same age, Cooper and Yates had been plugged as a wee hours odd couple by TV3. Cooper would be the straight "newsman" – delivering the headlines yet generally keeping his opinions to himself.
Yates, by contrast, was to assume the role of the crotchety elderly uncle. He would speak his mind, regardless of how pointedly his venting jarred with polite consensus.
However, the antagonistic chemistry we were promised failed to manifest as Cooper and Yates kicked off with a faux-furious exchange about Donald Trump at the United Nations. Cooper argued against nuking North Korea, Yates, donning his contrarian cap, banged a drum for Trump. They were aiming for grand political theatre – but what we got was third rate panto.
Studio guests offered a mixed bag. The ghost of controversies past Eamon Dunphy was joined by comedian Al Porter, Fianna Fail TD Lisa Chambers and Employment and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty. A debate about the housing crisis lurched from talking points by the politicians to populist bromides by the other panelists. Inevitably they were all soon jabbering over one another.
With Browne exiting the producers have taken the opportunity to freshen the format.
The studio had been spruced up and there was a greater use on video clips. So it was a shame the makeover didn't extend to the presenters' outfits. Cooper's purple shirt appeared, for instance, to have been trampled underfoot before he'd donned it.
The two new hosts are competitors on radio, with Cooper’s The Last Word now up against Yates’ new Newstalk evening slot.
But any rivalry was left at the door as The Tonight Show got off to the meekest of starts.
We'd been promised strong personalities delivering unvarnished truths. What we got were two sweaty debutantes attempting to conjure contentiousness out of thin air.
Somewhere offscreen Vincent was surely rolling his eyes.