TV3’s ‘Tonight Show’ risks running out of conversation
With a fourth night added, even Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates might not have enough to say
Matt Cooper (usually tieless but wearing one in this publicity shot) and Ivan Yates (vice versa) of the Tonight Show
Early this week, Matt Cooper, the generally tieless co-host of The Tonight Show (Monday-Thursday, TV3, 11pm), sounded concerned. “How frustrating is this?” he asked. “We’ve been talking about the same issue since late 2014 and yet we just keep having the same conversations?”
It was the show’s first night since extending its schedule to four nights a week, and the question did not bode well.
Cooper was speaking about the housing crisis, a punishing situation made worse by Governmental inaction, so it was easy to feel all talked out. But, encouraged by audience figures to claim more late-night territory, it raised a strange question for the current affairs talk show. Is there really enough conversation to go round?
It may not have helped that the show had hit upon a blue Monday. Opening with a lengthy panel conversation on loneliness, inspired by Britain’s appointment of a Minister for Loneliness, it afforded its panel an unhurried and capacious précis of the subject.
Psychologist Maureen Gaffney delivered illuminating context, businesswoman Norah Casey offered a frank personal account, and the following candid assessment of digital alienation and diminished human contact came from man of the people, Senator David Norris: “My secretary, Miriam, who’s wonderful, has to book airline tickets for me.” Which of our wonderful secretaries could not relate?
The unusual luxury of The Tonight Show, still recalibrating following its much-missed sulphuric incarnation under firebrand Vincent Browne, is that it gives its subjects time and space. Even the studio, a soothing swoosh of blue and cyan, is so generously proportioned it requires several bodies to make it look less empty.
That may be the only persuasive rationale for retaining the services of two male presenters in the tieless Cooper and tie-wearing Ivan Yates, hosts who are not as dissimilar as their neckwear and occasional age-related joshing would have us believe. No wonder loneliness became the lead story; this show is desperate for company.
Another fear, however, is a lack of productive friction, where two hosts politely dividing their questions don’t have enough leeway to conduct a grilling. If Monday’s conversations were civil, Tuesday’s sought blood, opening with a discussion of the National Development Plan, “a political football” as Yates put it, which Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon and Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte were promptly invited to kick, hopefully along with each other.
It was a wind-up, really: an appeal to the narcissism of small difference between almost indistinguishable political rivals, and it felt about as sincere as Yates hotly accusing Senator Pádraig ó Céidigh of saying something “fundamentally dishonest” for suggesting that rural areas are actually quite vibrant.
Only economist Colm McCarthy seemed willing to hold anyone’s feet to the fire with an unswerving adherence to data and a simple, yet tellingly unanswerable question to the squabbling politicians about how the cost of promised universal fibre-optic broadband could ever be met. In the blather that followed, they were all talk.
The National Development Plan is still, notoriously, a draft document, and that made Cooper’s wrap-up remarks sound like the fulfilment of his own prophetic worries. “When it is ready we’ll have a big discussion about it,” he promised. How frustrating is this? We just keep having the same conversations.