You don't usually associate Martin McGuinness with levity, but, unless I'm mistaken, he made something approximating to a joke on Saturday Night with Miriam. Saturday Night with Miriam (RTE1, Sat) Mad Mad World (UTV, Sat)
The former IRA leader-turned Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland was the main guest on the Prime Time host's summer show. This was the first time the two had formally met since the heated exchange in private that followed the presidential debate during which McGuinness had taken exception to O'Callaghan's line of questioning.
After a polite exchange of kisses on the cheek, McGuinness said this was the greeting the world had been waiting for "since last October" -- a reference to the incident.
Alas, the attempt at humour seems to have sailed over the head of O'Callaghan, who assumed McGuinness was referring to his handshake with Queen Elizabeth, whom he refused to meet when she visited Ireland in May of last year. Or perhaps she just chose to ignore it, because this was very much O'Callaghan in serious mode, doing what she does in the day job: interrogate politicians. McGuinness, of course, is probably the hardest of all politicians to interrogate, since he's perfected a crab-like facility for shuffling sideways around a straight question.
Did he feel any guilt or remorse for all the people the IRA had killed and maimed? Offering that there was "nothing glamorous or glorious or great about war", McGuinness conceded that he regretted "the loss of every single life, including the loss of British soldiers and those close to the queen of England" (a reference to Lord Louis Mountbatten, murdered by the IRA in 1979).
Had the IRA's campaign of violence been worth it? "How could I say it's worth it? These were circumstances that were beyond my control as a 21-year-old," said McGuinness, who spoke of Derry formerly being a city "under occupation", where nationalists suffered discrimination and injustice at the hand of British soldiers.
Did he like the queen, O'Callaghan wondered. "Well, it was a short engagement..." McGuinness began, before making the right noises about extending "the hand of friendship, peace and reconciliation".
"But did you LIKE her?" O'Callaghan pressed on, gently but firmly. "She was very nice," McGuiness 'fessed up eventually.
There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the interview, other than that it seemed to belong on another programme; Prime Time, perhaps. Since its debut in 2005, Saturday Night with Miriam has set out its stall as a frothy, throwaway summer diversion -- even if the finished product frequently feels as soggy as wet fruit cake.
Coming on the heels of easygoing chats with the always amiable Bill O'Herlihy, 70s pop star Leo Sayer, and former Irish Olympians Sonia O'Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan, the McGuinness interview couldn't have felt more incongruous if he'd joined Sayer in a duet of When I Need You.
For all its faults, The Late Late Show is the only chat show that's successfully managed to balance the lightweight with the heavy within a single framework.
The sooner RTE realises one Late Late is all we need, the better.
I saw an amusing video on YouTube the other week. It featured a weather forecaster from a European station (Spanish, I think) projectile vomiting, like Regan in The Exorcist, and then gamely carrying on as though nothing had happened. It was funny for about 40 seconds, although I wouldn't care to stretch the experience to 40 minutes.
But this is precisely what the, erm, brains behind Mad Mad World have decided to do.
It's a comedy panel show (now there's a novelty, eh!) hosted by the insufferable Paddy McGuinness, from dating game Take Me Out. He's flanked by the inevitable comedian-captains (Rufus Hound and Rhys Darby), plus a couple of celebrity guests (Louis Walsh and Janice Dickinson), and they practically wet themselves laughing at funny foreign clips.
Saturday Night with Miriam 3/5 Mad Mad World 1/5