Wednesday 21 February 2018

Television: Authority, serenity and Brendan O'Connor

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch's reviews of the year

World Cup Qualifiers (RTE2)

The Saturday Night Show (RTE1)

Glastonbury (BBC Interactive)

Ireland's Secret Sex Lives (TV3)

The Disappeared (RTE1)

We didn't mention sport in last week's round-up, though without it, some of us would hardly have gone on living at all in 2013 -- with no World Cup, European Championship or Olympic Games last year, it was a big ask.

And yet sport is now probably the last area in which television is at the centre of a massive communal experience. It can happen occasionally with a phenomenon such as Love/Hate, but in general, the only thing large numbers of people will be watching at the same time, in the same country, is a game of football -- and even then, the Sky Plus machine enables us to watch at a time of our choosing, if we can somehow avoid hearing the result from the numerous information banks now installed in our homes.

****

According to the figures, The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O'Connor may soon be the only rival to the World Cup Qualifier as a place to which the nation comes as one, with hope in its heart. And I say this not just because I have been proved so right yet again in my insistence that O'Connor is a gifted TV performer, though of course, as Mario Draghi might say, I have noted this.

He is also developing such a command of the medium that on a recent episode the entire station seemed to start collapsing around him, with several interruptions or even complete breakdowns and he came through it all with such authority there was almost a sense of serenity during the last item, which featured Sinead O'Connor.

****

The BBC's coverage of Glastonbury brings a new twist to the concept of TV as a communal experience by covering an event at which a communal experience is already taking place and then feeding it to us according to taste, via the red button.

So we engage with it in ways not dissimilar to the folks who actually go there, except we can spend the weekend checking out bands in various tents without leaving the house -- a friend of mine who lives in rural Wicklow has for some years been "going" to Glastonbury, setting up a tent in his attic and leaving the rest to the BBC and its excellent interactive service.

This year the Rolling Stones on the pyramid stage promised to be little more than a bunch of elderly men knocking out a few old tunes in a deeply cynical fashion purely to boost their already large pension funds. But it turned out to be a bunch of elderly men knocking out a few old tunes in an absolutely stunning fashion, purely to boost their already large pension funds.

****

Kudos too for the heavily disguised man on Ireland's Secret Sex Lives who told reporter Paul Cunningham that he is quite discreet about his fetish for whips, chains, handcuffs, what-have-you, but that some friends and close family would know about it... "well, like, my mother", he explained. Time was when an Irishman might conceal his sexuality from his mother until the end of her days, now here is one who is not even concealing his fetishes. Top man.

****

Our more traditional Men of Violence and their victims were remembered in The Disappeared, a documentary about people who were "disappeared" by the IRA. Directed by Alison Millar and presented by reporter Darragh MacIntyre, this was an outstanding piece of television, a work of art.

A few weeks later when I wrote that Irish nationalism is "eejitry taken to such extremes that it becomes a form of evil", I was reminded by a letter writer that I had not been so dismissive of other varieties of nationalism, especially British nationalism.

And indeed it is well worth pointing out that we usually have no trouble identifying nationalism as a terrible curse when we talk about faraway versions of it, say, Serbian nationalism or, indeed, British nationalism and our old friend the German nationalism. In fact, not only does it appear obviously as a bad thing to us, it immediately has connotations of fascism and racism and all sorts of weirdness that you don't want anything to do with, under any circumstances.

But apparently our own variety, alone among all the nationalisms of the world, is free from all that unpleasantness. Which is grand.

Irish Independent

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