Thursday 22 February 2018

When Gaybo met Bono – rock and droll with a slice of soul

John Boland

Gay Byrne's soul-searching, quasi-religious series, The Meaning of Life (RTÉ One), normally wraps up its interviews in 30 minutes, but this week's chat with U2's lead singer ran for a full hour. Plainly, Bono's life was deemed to have twice as much meaning as that of Terry Wogan, Noel Gallagher, Sinead O'Connor or other previous occupants of Gaybo's psychiatric chair.

In the event, a half-hour would have been quite enough, though our national broadcaster was hardly going to pass up the chance to get as much airtime as it could from Bono's participation – a participation that doubtless had a lot to do with the rock star's admiration and fondness for his old Late Late Show encourager.

The best moments, though, came at the beginning and the end, the lengthy middle taken up with Bono in familiar – and mostly self-justifying – public mode, whether it was making extravagant claims about how the efforts of Bob Geldof, himself and other rock luminaries "profoundly changed things" in Ethiopia, or arguing that the Third World in general was now in a much better state than before international celebs came along to help it out, or indeed rehashing his reasons for schmoozing with the likes of George W Bush and Tony Blair in his efforts to save the world.

Even more wearisome was his defence of U2's cosy foreign tax arrangements (the band was merely behaving "like a business"), though when his host asked him if his wealth and status put him at a distance from ordinary Irish people, he had the good grace to concede, "That must be true", before commending his fellow citizens on their "heroic" response to the recession, whatever that quite meant.

But he was unpretentiously eloquent, and occasionally droll, when talking about his upbringing and about first meeting the schoolgirl who was to become his wife and, towards the end, he spoke affectingly of his father, describing him as a "great man" and acknowledging that whatever traits weren't so great in him weren't so great in the son, either.

Unlike Terry Wogan, whose blithe confession of atheism had appeared to dismay his host in an earlier edition of the programme, Bono's unabashed declaration of his Christian faith was well received, while a hearty laugh ensued when he was asked the programme's customary final question about what he'd say to God when he finally arrived at the pearly gates. "I think I might just shut up," he said, "and wouldn't that be a great thing?"

I'd normally concur, though for at least 20 engaging minutes of this overlong interview, I'm glad he didn't keep his trap closed.

RTÉ's acquisitions department continues to seem hell-bent on ignoring all the brilliant shows it could import and opting for duds instead. How else to explain passing on Louie and on Girls, two of the best American comedy series in years, and plumping for Go On (RTÉ Two), Matthew Perry's latest doomed attempt to prove that there's comedic life after Friends.

This features Perry as a radio sports commentator ordered to attend grief counselling sessions after the death of his wife. That doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs and, so this week's first episode proved, clichés abounded as Perry persuaded his fellow-afflicted to let it all hang out and express their true selves. There wasn't a giggle to be had, and I won't be returning for more.

Also billed as new on the same channel is Suits, even though there's nothing remotely new about it – it's now in its third season in the United States and has been running on FX for the past couple of years. Billed as a comedy drama, it starts from a preposterous premise – hotshot heartless corporate lawyer hires heart-on-sleeve genius kid with no legal experience as his junior – and seems quite unclear what tone to adopt. But it's slickly made and has some nice playing and if you've nothing better to do on a Tuesday night, it might prove vaguely diverting.

You might also find Longmire (RTÉ One) quietly diverting, though on the evidence of this week's first episode it's not a patch on the excellent Justified, based on stories by Elmore Leonard and starring Timothy Olyphant, which hasn't been taken up by any channel on this side of the Atlantic.

The empty landscapes of Wyoming provide the setting here, with widowed sheriff Walt Longmire the taciturn hero who's mourning the death of his wife while assuring his concerned daughter that he's alright.

So far, so stereotyped and, in truth, the murder he had to solve in the first episode wasn't exactly riveting stuff, either. But, as played by Australian actor Robert Taylor, Longmire's an intriguing character and there's engaging support from Katee Sackhoff as his no-nonsense deputy. Again if you've nothing better to do . . .

Veronica Guerin: Countdown to an Assassination (TV3) featured nothing that viewers didn't already know and, indeed, failed to remind us of what happened to those who were accused of her killing. But there were fond and moving recollections of this spirited journalist from brother Jimmy and from colleague and friend Lise Hand.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment