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22 May 1997 Edition

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Television: Tame, lame Pat

On paper, RTE's premiere chat show, Kenny Live (Saturdays, 9.20pm) looks fine. Last week it had interviews with Garth Brooks, Mick McCarthy and an actress who has written a play about bigotry in the North, with live music from Trisha Yearwood and a newcomer.

In reality, the programme was bland to the point of boredom, cheap, and riddled with free publicity for a myriad of products.

The first and most immediate obstacle to viewer enjoyment is Pat Kenny himself. RTE executives imagine that the aging, brown-suited one-time lothario remains some class of pin-up for the nation's womenfolk. To the outside world, however, on television at least, he is merely a well-groomed chump. He lacks the capacity for satire, or even a line in self-deprecation, without which modern chat shows become tiresome after a short time.

This is one of the reasons that Kenny Live compares so badly to The Clive James Show (UTV, Monday, 10.40pm), or even David Letterman (Sky1, weeknights) or Tonight with Jay Leno (Super Channel, weeknights). All of these three have a healthy element of satire, and the guests are aware that at any moment, usually when they say something pretentious or stupid, the host will cut them down with a witty barb. (Once, when Julia Roberts told a story about how she screamed for fun on the set of a big film, David Letterman said: ``That's moronic!'' Roberts looked confused for a second, then replied: ``Did you just call me a moron?'')

But hell would freeze before Pat Kenny could call a guest an idiot, and there is almost as slim a chance of him introducing some other amusing element to the show, such as a weekly television version of Scrap Saturday or even a monologue.

Another problem is the audience. Maybe they trawl the Bingo Addicts Anonymous meetings for these people, perhaps they just keep all the names of 1970s Charismatics on file and invite them in rotation, but something has to be done. These people will applaud any guest, no matter how lame, and worse, any ``prize'', no matter how useless, as if they had just witnessed a live, on-stage miracle by a Vatican-approved saint.

Last week, they almost lost it, verging into mass hysteria, when Pat showed them a picture of a £36,000 camper-van (it sleeps six!) that they had a one-in-39,000 chance of winning.

They clapped inanely when the dress designer Paul Costello introduced his new collection, and six former `Miss Irelands' strode out wearing strips of black PVC bin-liners. The item turned out to be yet another plug, a jolly jape supposed to persuade people to buy the bin-liners.

Then came an audience quiz, which whipped them into a frenzy. The question was so easy that even a slug could have answered correctly, but there was wild applause anyway. It turned out to be another big, free ad for something or other.

Pat introduced Maire Jones, the Belfast actress who has written a play about the 1993 World Cup soccer match between North and South. The event is famed for the effect it had on the Dublin media and pundit set who travelled to Belfast and discovered that not all loyalists are jocular old codgers like Sam McAughtry. The ones they met that day were vicious, snarling bigoted Orange half-wits, who made gorilla noises each time a black player touched the ball.

The interview, however, dwelt on how exhilarating it was that such a play could be performed in Belfast without loyalists storming the stage when confronted with images of their own sectarianism.

Back to the £39,000 camper van, and the audience is cowed for a moment by the enormity of the sum, before breaking into more spontaneous applause.

Then an interview with Deirdre Gogarty, a boxer. The thrust of this was that just as Beckett, Wilde and Joyce had to emigrate, she too had to leave, this time to the US, just to get the recognition she deserved. Pat could have asked her interesting questions, like ``Are you mental?'' or ``Do you ever beat the crap out of some night club bouncer just becuase you can?'' But he didn't.

There was a talented young singer from Omagh, Juliet Turner, whom RTE could have helped by providing a backing band for the show, but didn't. Then more free publicity involving golf.

Garth Books did not appear, but there was footage of Pat interviewing him earlier. He played a song, on his own with just a guitar, which was pleasant. Then Pat said: ``Garth, we on Kenny Live will give you a £39,000 camper van if you will trash your hotel room for our cameras - what do you say?'' Just kidding, of course. He didn't.

More free publicity for some product - not the camper van - and an interview with Mick McCarthy, the South's soccer manager. McCarthy was his usual dour, prickly self, boasting only that his squad would beat Lichtenstein.

And Pat, of course, never asked him about sectarianism in soccer; that could have got out of hand.

By Michael Kennedy

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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