TV & Radio

Political correctness from the echo chamber
Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia star in This Is Us on RTÉ2.

A couple of new shows hit the TV screens last week. With much advance hype one of these arrived on RTÉ2 last Thursday night. US drama This Is Us tells the interacting stories of several individuals who share the same birthday.

It was appealing enough to make me want to watch another episode, but only just. It wasn’t a problem that I was confused about how all these characters related to each other – at least that made me engage with the show and is inevitable in a first episode. 

And I was impressed by the surprise ending (at least I didn’t see it coming) which showed rather startling connections between the main characters.  

The most moving plotline featured a successful young man re-establishing a relationship with the father that had abandoned him as a baby.  By contrast the story of the woman having triplets was a tad overwrought and a shade corny. 

There wasn’t much of what’s euphemistically called ‘adult content’, though the opening scene was pointlessly risqué.  

Another new programme was Channel 4’s Fake News, a panel show sifting through the week’s news and beyond. I’m getting really sick of that phrase, as if ‘fake news’ was something new. Last Friday night’s episode was funny in spots but smelled of cheap shots, with predictable targets. And so there was a segment on news being ‘spicered’, i.e. real news being given the Sean Spicer treatment, a nod to the White House Press Secretary.  

‘Alternative facts’

Of course much play was made of ‘alternative facts’, thanks to Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway’s unfortunate choice of words. Worryingly, some fake news the guests deliberately sent out took off in cyberland, with several media outlets taking the stories to be true. 

The ‘echo chamber’ segment was rather ironic – as they sent up the concept (people hearing only their own points of view fed back to them), but didn’t seem conscious of their own echo chamber existence, where it’s the done thing to mock Trump et al. at every opportunity. Mind you those targets do make it all too easy sometimes. But who is going to send up liberals’ excesses and hold them to account?

It’s not quite a new show, but a new series of Pat Kenny Tonight started on TV3, Wednesday night of last week. They’re not short of momentous political events to talk about. 

However it’s all too much like Kenny’s old show from Monday nights on RTÉ and Clare Byrne Live, currently running in that slot. 

I really enjoyed the interview with journalist Mary Ellen Synon. She was introduced rather peculiarly as having been “a lonely right wing fish in a liberal sea” – talk about marginalising! Synon was “beyond thrilled” at Trump’s election, but accepted that he had said some “jackass things”. 

I’d like to have heard more about her take on Trump advisor Steve Bannon...she said he didn’t want war with anyone, but was a “disruptor”. Inevitably there was more banter about ‘fake news’, when Synon gave an example of a fake story about Judge Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court. 

She ended on an odd note about herself and other Trump fans – “we take him seriously but not literally” – chew on that!

The show ended with a lively debate on political correctness, with George Hook fulminating against the excesses of the PC brigade, e.g. the British Medical Association wanting the term ‘mother’ replaced by ‘pregnant person’. 

Fergus Finlay didn’t seem keen on the excesses of PC either, but didn’t want offensive language and labelling, especially in relation to children. 

A contributor from the audience, Keith Mills, made sense – he favoured free speech, but with limitations relating to the likes of defamation and incitement.  Another audience member, Margaret Hickey, referenced the marginalisation of people with views contrary to those of the PC crowd, and how that feeds into media bias. 

Example

Funny enough, there was a telling example on the Pat Kenny Show the day before when Kenny gave a thorough grilling on Irish language promotion to Julian de Spáinn of Conradh na Gaeilge, followed by a soft interview with Ed Walsh, founding President of the University of Limerick, who was discussing the class divide at third level and, among other things, lambasting lack of action on ‘bad teachers’. 

Seems to me like you’re so lucky when presenters are sympathetic to your views, but so unfortunate when they aren’t!

 

Pick of the Week

EWTN NEWS NIGHTLY EWTN

Tuesday, February 21, 7.30pm

EWTN’s daily news and analysis programme from Washington, DC.

HAS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD?

Channel 4, Thursday, February 23, 9pm

Trevor Phillips investigates the liberal urge to protect minorities from offence by gagging so-called populists and concludes that for liberals it’s backfired.

THE LEAP OF FAITH RTÉ Radio

1, Friday, February 24, 10.02pm

Topical religious affairs with Michael Comyn.