Sunday 22 April 2018

Last night’s TV: Rose of Tralee final night

Queensland Rose Tara Talbot can't believe it as she is named the 53rd Rose of Tralee last night
Queensland Rose Tara Talbot can't believe it as she is named the 53rd Rose of Tralee last night
Queensland's Tara Talbot was last night crowned the 53rd Rose of Tralee

Forget the contestants, last night’s show was all about embarrassing parents, writes Eithne Tynan

At the beginning of the Rose of Tralee Part Two last night, someone held up a sign saying 'Daithi for President'. He will have to consider it now. If there is evidence that the Irish People might be clamouring for Daithí Ó Sé to become president, then of course he will have to think carefully about his candidacy. That is what the people expect.That is what is done.

Mind you, the previous night someone had held up a sign saying 'Turf for Sale', and helpfully included a phone number. And towards the end of last night's show, just before the winner was announced, someoneelse held up a saying proclaiming 'I Heart Tae'.

These are the kinds of people who always know what to say. Offered a blank canvas and a massive television audience, these people don't abruptly fall silent. Their thoughts turn at once to your winter fuel needs, or their own affection for tea, and they articulate those thoughts unambiguously.

The same can't be said for O Sé, who was struck dumb several times during the whole Rose of Tralee TV extravaganza. It tended to happen when any of the Roses began to toy with him conversationally. Even when Imelda May raised a laugh by tapping Ó Sé's leg to see if it was wooden (in keeping with a feeble standing joke about the escorts), he said nothing. Nothing.

O Sé seems to like flirting with shy little old ladies or with big, red-cheeked men. He doesn't seem all that great at flirting with young women, which on the whole is probably a good quality, really, except when you're hosting the Rose of Tralee.

But back to signs. There was an uncomfortable silence last night when the father of the Washington DC Rose, Dorothy Henggeler, held up a sign saying 'Rosie says Woof Woof'. Rosie, it turned out, was Dorothy's dog (really? Not Toto?) who died about ten years ago.

“Dad said he had a sign that would make me cry. I think that's it, is it Dad?” The camera cut to Dad nodding vigorously and giving the thumbs-up. “Because I'm not crying, Dad.” Dorothy went on. “I'm sorry. It's kind of creepy.” Cut to Dad again, this time scratching his nose and trying to hide his feelings.

In fact, close-ups of Mums and Dads trying to hide their feelings are a visual motif of the festival. The Wexford Rose, for instance, read out a poem written in 1950 by her father, who is now 78. The camera zoomed in on the poor man's face, with his lower lip quivering pneumatically. So brave was his struggle to contain himself that decent viewers will have been desperately trying to look away. But the camera just would not look away. It stared and stared.

Similarly, when the Roscommon Rose told a story about her father winning a beauty contest in drag, the camera focused lovingly on the the father looking positively furious. The angrier he appeared while his daughter told this embarrassing yarn, the more the camera gaped at him, until the entire audience was laughing in a sort of hysterical confusion.

Of course, when the winner was announced, Queensland Rose Tara Talbot, her mother's face was perfectly legible. There was no struggle. All the camera had to do was hang around and wait for her to cry.

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