Sat Night Show

Just when you thought the property tax was as bad as it could get along comes The Saturday Night Show to remind you that the TV Licence fee is still by far and away the most unjust tax in Ireland. That this lamentable attempt at entertainment can be commissioned by any channel is baffling, that it’s commissioned by the state broadcaster at our expense is an injustice worthy of a tribunal.

After an opening monologue so lame as to appear to have been plagiarised from a school teacher trying too hard to be down with the kids, host Brendan O’Connor retreats to his desk and welcomes the show’s first guest, English comedienne Francesca Martinez.

A normally witty, self-deprecating character, Martinez often draws laughs-a-plenty in the company of such hosts as Jonathon Ross and Alan Carr. In O’Connor’s hands, however, the interview quickly descends into a series of awkward pauses and pointless questions, laughter the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. By the time the segment draws to a close it’s difficult to know who awaits the end more keenly; Martinez, O’Connor or the inexplicably large studio audience, who seem to take to the overall banality of the show like the proverbial pig to sh*t. Well, semi-proverbial anyway….

Next up was Jilly Cooper, the writer of such steamy novels as Emily and Octavia. Cooper was in town to research her next raunchy tome, this one to be penned through the prism of the Irish horse-racing world. Queue a stream of tedious, jockey-based double-entendres that, if nothing else, ensured the tone of the show remained very much at the aforementioned classroom level.

Jo Porter (no, me neither) was next to flog some tat. After revealing herself to be the wife of Irish célèbre du jour Chris O’Dowd, Porter was bestowed with five minutes of free advertising for her new book, after which O’Connor proceeded to spend the remainder of the seemingly interminable segment asking question after question about O’Dowd – an interview by proxy if you like. Had it been Yoko Ono answering questions about John Lennnon, O’Connor might have got away with it, but to pester poor Porter about the domesticity levels of her sitcom star spouse just made the host appear to be very much on the wrong side of the line between curious inquisitor and unhinged stalker.

Finally journalist and author Colm Keane arrived to attempt resuscitation of a show that had long since felt moribund. Ironically the author briefly managed it via a moving account of the death of his son to cancer five years ago. Keane claimed to have had an outer body experience at the moment of his son’s passing and has written a book on the subject. Irrespective of one’s scepticism on the existence of such phenomena, Keane’s eloquent and heart-felt account of his loss did at least provide a rare moment of welcome intelligence among the otherwise crass, tabloid fare of the evening.

Not that a lowest common denominator feel was the show’s weakest link. There are so many other components that contribute to the shambles that is the Saturday Night Show that it’s hard to pick just one. The relative anonymity of the guests, the blatant shilling of merchandise, the clunky dialogue, the childish banter, the inane line of questioning – the list, much like the show itself, seems endless. But whilst all are criticisms of merit the greatest problem must surely be O’Connor himself, a host who facilitates fluid, entertaining chat in much the same way constipation facilitates the smooth passing of waste.

It would be wrong to say Ireland simply doesn’t produce chat show hosts of sufficient skill, as O’Connor’s fellow Cork man Graham Norton proved the previous night on BBC1. The problem is that when we do produce them they are exported; for Norton now read Terry Wogan and Dave Allen in years gone by. Ireland, it seems, simply keeps the ones deemed not good enough for the UK. Pat Kenny, for instance, was once famously said to possess ‘all the charisma of a bag of sick’. In O’Connor’s case such a description would perhaps be inappropriate, associated as vomit often is with an entertaining Saturday night.

Between The Saturday Night Show and it’s off-season replacement, Saturday Night With Miriam (where the dial is turned from crass to dull), Rte seem determined to have a permanent Saturday night chat show presence, but the question remains, why? In austere times can the broadcaster really justify the largesse on O’Connor and his army of no-mark nobodies giggling to the umpteenth double-entendre of the night? Last year over 500 people went to prison for failing to pay the €160 licence fee. Last year Brendan O’Connor earned, nay, received €158,000 from the tax payer.

Puts the property tax in perspective, huh?


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