Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Stephen Nolan's night of righteous anger

An occasional cheese nightmare, but his new show did have its moments

Stephen Nolan
Stephen Nolan

“Congratulations Mrs Nolan, it's a bouncing baby boy” are probably the last words Stephen Nolan heard that he didn't descend into wobbling righteous outrage about.

Even then we can't be certain he didn't grill the midwife about being presumptuous about his bounciness.

It's his subsequent years of carefully cultivated concern for the befuddled, the beaten and the easily beguiled that's landed him, at an unbelievable 38 (years, not waist size), at the top of the regional shock jock stockpile.

And now: “Stephen Nolan probes the issues that matter with lively debates and interesting guests.”

And with one glib flourish from the BBC NI press office, the cake-loving Mother Teresa of chat is eased back in front of the cameras.

“Punishment beatings,” cries out Nolan, preacher-like before the cameras, like he's never been so offended by a sequence of syllables in his life.

The weird thing is, having not seen Nolan on the box for a good three years now, he seems to have become a French and Saunders fat-suit rendering of himself. And when the blue-rinse eyebrow-waggling animatronic effigy of Louis Walsh joins him for a chat, it's like a local TV cheese nightmare.

So what of the substance of Nolan on the Box?

“Ordinary people” or (when it's particularly serious) “ordinary decent people” keep getting credited with the kind of profound moral wisdom that makes you question your own level of ordinariness.

When former Red Hand Commando Jim Wilson and George Hamilton (who's left Hollywood to become a deputy chief constable) take up their cudgels about street justice, you're left wondering.

“We need something called evidence,” explains not-so-gorgeous George, by way of defending something called the 4% clearance rate. It's all to do with stats and beatings.

So then, it's business as usual really for Nolan, only with extra wide-angled awe.

Never is this more apparent as when that acolyte of the furrowed brow — the SDLP's Conal McDevitt — joins us on something called Skype from his living room, which seemed to have been hastily filled with important looking files. I could swear one of them has ‘P3 homework' scrawled across it.

As I make for the kettle with a sigh, the impossibly oily DoE Minister Alex Attwood is wheeled on, oozing all over the nice new Nolan floor in lieu of justifying a golfing-related planning decision.

Meanwhile Nolan tears into him in lieu of proper public accountability. And politicians' perspiration comes across so much better on the television than it does on radio.

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