TV Viewpoint: Deirdre O’Kane Talks Funny and The Den

Funny by Name but Not by Nature, O’Kane’s Show Falls Flat

SEEMINGLY off the back of her successful RTE does Comic Relief organising and co-presenting, Deirdre O’Kane has been given a prime-time talk-show slot in the space formerly occupied by Brendan O’Connor, Ray D’Arcy, Miriam O’Callaghan and Tommy Tiernan.

The vacancy after the news on Saturday nights has been mostly reserved for Late Late lite, and Deirdre O’Kane Talks Funny (RTE One, 9:10pm), largely follows in those footsteps, despite the premise of the show being a candid chat with Ireland’s comedy legends.

First up was, inevitably, Pat Shortt, whose conversation with O’Kane was interspersed with clips of his comedy career beginning as John Kenny’s “apprentice” in D’Unbelieveables and continuing with his first telly gig in Fr Ted and his foray into solo stand-up.

The premise may have been more successful with a studio audience, to bolster the constant cackling into something more inclusive for the at-home viewers. Instead, it felt like a dialogue between two old friends, fine for a 10-minute segment in a chat show but which ran thin after the 40 minutes allocated here.

Deirdre O’Kane

Although it wasn’t as fawning and overly-congratulatory as in-depth interviews often tend to be, there was an In the Actor’s Studio vibe, in looking over the comedian’s legacy and reminiscing over shared anecdotes and showbiz triumphs that may have made all but the most dedicated fans’ minds wander to more entertaining places.

O’Kane proved herself a professional and capable host, Shortt is by no means short of banter and the pair had an easy rapport, but strangely even those qualities failed to make Talks Funny particularly, well, funny.

A nice, affable chat was had between two old colleagues and friends, and if you miss eavesdropping in on conversations in mid-market restaurants at lunchtime, between pals catching up after a while over just-the-one glass of wine, then this might appeal.

If you didn’t think 2020 was going to get any weirder, along came The Den revival on RTE One on Sunday evening to prove you wrong. It had returned briefly to our screens in June as part of RTE does Comic Relief (alongside Deirdre O’Kane – RTE is clearly getting a lot of mileage out of that well-received stunt), and such was the welcome they received by old fans that they’re back again for a pre-Monday pick-me-up to energise us for the week ahead.

Anyone who remembers The Den in its mid-90s hey-day, be it as a devoted fan or long-suffering parent who endured it from the corner of their eye, will recognise the chaotic, even anarchic format right off the bat.

Dustin the Turkey has returned to Montrose, as have Zig and Zag, with Ray D’Arcy back in his seat as referee, to control the bedlam. Dustin’s signature quick-fire insults are hurled, the aliens from Planet Zog are just as unpredictable as their fowl friend and D’Arcy looks more comfortable managing the pandemonium as he has ever done in his stint hosting his aforementioned Saturday night talk-show.

The Den

In fact, everyone involved seems to be having a grand old time, judging by the audible titters from the behind the scenes crew and the enthusiasm to join in from guests linking to the gang via Zoom.

Cork comic Sinead Quinn seemed completely at ease in winging it along with the rest of them as the show’s “roving reporter”, live from in front of a green screen the next studio over, and it was refreshing to hear a regional accent un-saturated by the conventions of RTE.

While the first half of Deirdre O’Kane Talks Funny seemed to me a lot longer than 20 minutes, the first 20 minutes of The Den went by in a flash, such was its relentless pace, and the feeling that something was always happening, or at least right about to happen.

Going out live, the show is always at risk of losing its hold on any semblance of control, which of course is part of the fun. It’s nice to see a packed studio (neither turkeys or aliens are susceptible to Covid-19, you see), and beaming faces having a right laugh. It’s genuinely funny, and little did we knew, just what Sunday evenings have needed.

  • First Published in The Tuam Herald on 11 11 20

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