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Frock horror! Miriam embraces her girly side


'Have you had any rows yet" Miriam O'Callaghan asked the five members of Boyzone on Saturday Night with Miriam (RTE1). Shane Lynch chortled and Miriam asked him why. "I'm just laughing at the question," Shane responded, "people looking for the dirt straight away."

Shane couldn't have been more wrong. When Miriam's doing her Prime Time gig, she furrows her brow, raises her voice half an octave and gets all cross and querulous, frequently interrupting her interviewee to show how peeved she is. But come Saturday night in the summer, she dons her party frock and becomes all girly, telling her guests how wonderful they are.

I'm not sure which is the Miriam I find less tolerable, but her fluffy and giddy summer persona, all taffeta skirts and breathless badinage, probably takes the biscuit. "Who slags the most?" she chucklingly asked the reformed boy band. "You're getting on very well, aren't you?" she enquired rhetorically. "People genuinely like you, don't they?" she offered. Faced with such forensic gruelling, the boys could do nothing else than agree.

"And the slagging?" she asked again. Yes, the guys conceded, they were known to slag each other something rotten. Gosh, it must be great to be on Miriam's show, knowing that the hardest question you're going to be asked is how terrific you are.

Next up was Jade Goody, the racist slapper from Big Brother. A couple of months back Jade was the subject of Livin' with Lucy, with whom she learnedly discussed the aesthetic drawbacks of men's willies, and here was Jade yet again, flown over at the taxpayer's expense to be told how marvellous she was by Miriam.

"It's been a tough year for the mom of two," Miriam solemnly informed us before Jade made her entrance, "but she's picked up the pieces." Then the interrogation began. "You look great," Miriam panted. "I love your hair." She also told her that "you turned out great" and that "you're a very strong person" and that "you're a real survivor."

After that, she introduced us to three of the participants from Celebrity Bainisteoir and told them how sensational they were while the viewer sat there stupefied by the witlessness and banality of it all. But, shure, it's summertime and Miriam's the bee's knees and anyway her production company keeps the RTE schedules crammed with programmes all year round and so if she wants to play at being a chat-show host, who are we to argue?

More serious, if no less tedious, interviewing techniques were to be found on One to One (RTE1), in which Aine Lawlor quizzed Harvard academic and Obama devotee Samantha Power. The Irish-born and Mount Anville-educated Power had recently been the subject of Radio One's Conversations with Eamon Dunphy, a series so fawning towards its guests that it should be retitled The Easy Ride, and here the interviewer was just as reverently unquestioning.

When Lawlor did interject, some of her questions took the form of speechifying, as if to let the viewer know that she was just as well versed in international affairs as her guest, but mostly she allowed Power to drone on in that earnest and humourless way peculiar to people who think that what they have to say is of grave global import.

Matters weren't helped by the fact that the first half of the interview took place before Power famously put her foot in it by declaring Hillary Clinton a "monster" or that the second half was conducted before the outcome of the Democratic race was decided, which meant that the conversation was full of ifs and buts about a result known to the viewer. But the encounter was so dogged and dull that such gaffes in timing didn't really matter.

If you're going to be kidnapped and held prisoner for a month, try to make sure that your captors are from the Oromo Liberation Front. That, at any rate, was the main message to be gleaned from this week's edition of Hostage (RTE1), which recounted the ordeal experienced by Concern volunteers Fiona O'Brien and Mary Coen in April 1988 when they were working as nurses in Ethiopia.

I have no wish to scoff at their plight, which must have been considerable, but the way they told it made it seem like a stroll, if not in the park, then the jungle. Marched off at gunpoint from their allotted settlement by guerrilla soldiers, Fiona recalled that they had to "walk through the hottest part of the day" and that Mary got blisters on her feet. So what happened next? "We just insisted we were not walking in the middle of the day." Okay, said the kidnappers, you can walk in the early morning instead.

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But the heat "was just a killer" and at one stage Fiona got "extremely tired". Food was provided, but the meat was raw and Fiona and Mary demanded that it be cooked. Suitably fed, Fiona then had time to note that the scenery was "majestic", while Mary recalled that "the sky was so beautiful".

But their agony wasn't over. When they were being taken by truck to Sudan it started to rain. "Oh, my God, it poured out of the heavens," Mary recalled. But when they were released in Khartoum, they were put into a hotel and Fiona marvelled at the "beautiful bedrooms".

And it all turned out well. Mary is happily married back in Ireland, while Fiona got hitched to one of the volunteers she'd been working with in Ethiopia. And their ordeal takes second place to their fond memories of their time in Africa. They still remember the blisters, though.

During the Euro 2008 semi-final between Germany and Turkey (RTE2), the visual link kept breaking down and so Bill, Eamon, John and Liam had to fill in the gaps in the studio, which they did manfully. I hope, though, that they were getting overtime rates.


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