If you‘ve ever been on television – and at this stage most of us have been on television in some shape or form – you‘ll know that it‘s not natural. That there tends to be some level of performance involved, that unless you‘re being filmed without your knowledge, you‘re not really being yourself.

Or at least you are trying to put across your best self in the short space of time allotted for the purpose. It could hardly be otherwise, so artificial are the surroundings, so obvious the machinery that is required for just the simplest of TV tasks.

Personally it has always amazed me just how extravagantly wasteful the whole process can be – I have been a contributor to many TV documentaries which have required me to talk for hours, out of which maybe 90 seconds will be chopped and wedged into the finished programme. It never seems to occur to them to do it another way, to take up less of your day by suggesting a couple of areas you might concentrate on, rather than blathering to them for half the day until everyone is exhausted.

So it is a medium of conservative habits, which seems to be driving Brendan O‘Connor to find better ways of doing it. His Cutting Edge has a different energy to the usual talk show, and now the three-part pilot series Time Out is finding another way to go with the old talking.

There is an ancient cliche that you can‘t do any more with the talk show than has already been done, but then you‘re looking at this Time Out and you realise that maybe people just haven‘t been trying that hard – like all those documentary-makers who can‘t imagine putting their programmes together any other way, maybe it‘s not as impossible as they think to re-arrange the TV furniture.

It‘s not really about doing something totally new, more about finding something that feels new but also familiar enough not to be distracting you with its trickery. So the original source of the atmosphere of Time Out seemed to me to be coming not from another talk show at all, but from what can only be described as The Old Grey Whistle Test.

The genius of that show was that it took away something which had been considered essential to any rock ‘n‘ roll show, by leaving out the studio audience. Which had the effect of making the viewers feel like the audience, like members of a club, in a way they wouldn‘t have done if they were just looking at a regular show.

Likewise, Time Out happens in this studio in which everyone seems to have gone home for the night, leaving just these two people chatting to one another – in the first programme it was O‘Connor and Majella O‘Donnell, wife of Daniel, a woman of whom I‘d known little, or never imagined there was much to know, until she related the story of her life in a most absorbing way, in this apparently “empty” studio.

Again, if you have ever been on television, you often find that people are much more “themselves” when they‘re talking before or after the show, that the least interesting version of a person is the one they are putting out on the screen.

So with this device of the empty studio, you felt you were eavesdropping on a conversation, which was getting into quite deep areas – indeed the other echo which came to me, out of the Montrose night, was that of the work of Dr Anthony Clare.

“Tony”, as I called him, was, by dint of being a doctor, able to get people talking about themselves in ways that they wouldn‘t usually do, if they were just trying to plug a bit of product.

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O‘Connor gets them going in that direction too, not that last week‘s guest, Michael Harding, needs the reassurance that he is talking to someone with letters after his name to speak freely on the great questions.

A hint of Tony Clare, a vague suggestion of The Old Grey Whistle Test, maybe even a touch of Desert Island Discs without the discs, this Time Out is in a good neighbourhood. Seems like it was there all the time.

Sunday Indo Living