This TV review first appeared in the Andersonstown News
I’ve never felt drawn to Tommy Tiernan. Don’t ask me why – probably blind prejudice on my part. Or maybe his smart-arse manner. But THE TOMMY TIERNAN SHOW (RTÉ) has converted me. In a medium awash with same-old chat-shows, THE TOMMY TIERNAN SHOW is truly different.
The setting is bare – just two chairs, socially-distanced of course. Each guest is introduced by a balding middle-aged overweight man, who pulls back a curtain to reveal who the guest is. Until that moment, Tommy, we’re told, doesn’t know who it’s going to be (and yes, Virginia, it does save him doing a bunch of tedious research in advance). Last week he interviewed actor Brenda Fricker, and it was fascinating.
She is the winner of an Oscar but she hasn’t worked in ten years. She looked overweight and was wearing clothes she might have been wearing while working in the garden. And the exchanges were more natural conversation than question and answer.
Fricker, being an actor, had all sorts of stories to tell. About how the night she got her Oscar, she was so certain she wouldn’t win, she had refreshed herself with two serious Bloody Marys. The following year, she had the job of announcing the winner. As she went into the theatre, she noticed what turned out to be Al Pacino having a panic attack, because he’d been nominated and nominated and never won, and he couldn’t bear the thought of being an also-ran this year as well. “It’s all right, it’s all right” Brenda told him. “Sure I have the envelope here in my hand and your name is in it, I’m convinced.” So cut to fifteen minutes later and Brenda is on-stage, opens the envelope saying “And the winner is…Joe Pesci!”.
Brenda was followed by a young black guy, dressed in a screaming-out-loud shirt and with a hairstyle that was all shaved bits topped by tight ringlets which dangled over his forehead. His name was Bashir Otukoya.
“Where are you from?” Tommy asked.
“And what do you do?”
“I’m an assistant law professor – doing my PhD in UCD”.
My surprise at both answers reminded me of how much racism is still rooted in us all. Bashir told of going to secondary school in Drogheda, and how a team of black students would play impromptu rugby with a team of white students on a hard surface, and how no quarter was given and frequent fights broke out. Tommy at first seemed to hail this as great, somehow moving above racism to another level where the fact that they could play black vs white was in fact a triumph.
Bashir smilingly disagreed and said it confirmed the racism that goes on through black students’ lives in Ireland. He told a story of how, when he’d been unsuccessful in a job application, he changed ‘Bashir’ to ‘Richard’ – same cv, same everything – and immediately got an interview.
Guests with plenty to say. A bare set. Lots of silences. This is a chat show but not as we know it. Write it down: Saturday night after the RTÉ News