Saturday 20 July 2019

Last night’s TV: The Big Interview with Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy had an easy ride on his first outing with Tommy Tiernan, who is effortlessly interesting says Eithne Tynan

The legendary broadcaster Mike Murphy reappeared on our screens last night to interview the legendary comedian Tommy Tiernan. Later in this series of 'The Big Interview', Murphy will meet, among others, the legendary broadcaster Marian Finucane, the legendary economist David McWilliams and the legendary politician Bertie Ahern.

What must it feel like for Murphy, this sensation of being run up a flagpole to see who salutes? Having been dismissed as a bit of a lightweight for much of his career, he's now being presented by RTE as an eminence grise. It's as if viewers are being prepared for the day when Mike Murphy will be presenter of the Late Late Show, and Ryan Tubridy will have been dispatched to do his fast-talking-paddy routine somewhere on British radio.

Murphy began by quoting the legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne, who described Tiernan as “one of the nicest, most decent, gentlest men who walks the earth”. Tiernan, instead of obliging the camera and welling up, quipped: “He's getting old now, isn't he?”

“He's gone into his dotage,” Murphy agreed, and so the cheesiness of the moment was artfully dispelled.

That was the tone for most of the interview. Murphy allowed Tiernan to decide the atmosphere, so it was solemn or giddy as he chose. And apart from the portion when Tiernan was describing what Murphy termed his “melancholia”, it was mostly giddy.

Murphy's loud, chesty laugh seems at times a little too persistent to be convincing, but you have to say this for him: he really does appear to be listening. He even seems to forget the camera is there from time to time, and is shown unselfconsciously picking at his chin. It's a kind of intense listening you rarely witness in light entertainment any more.

Of course it's all very well interviewing someone like Tommy Tiernan, a man who is effortlessly interesting. More will be revealed when Mike Murphy tackles Bertie Ahern, a man who finagled an entire career out of not being interesting.

Considering that Murphy didn't question Tommy Tiernan about that whole anti-semitism ruckus at the 2009 Electric Picnic, it's possible he won't ask Bertie Ahern any hard questions either, but he should. His reputation as a legend depends on it.

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