Talking the talk with dignity and warmth
Talking Heads 6.30pm, ABC
THE dignified and unassuming ABC chat program Talking Heads quietly reached its 100th episode earlier this month with a program featuring retired general Peter Cosgrove. There are no Andrew Denton- style staged theatrics with silver- haired Peter Thompson in the host’s chair, no embarrassing Chaser antics, no defusing other guests who can steal attention or supply their own punchlines, as on Parkinson . With Talking Heads , what you see is what you get: one mainly polite, experienced ABC broadcaster with one subject, once a week, for the half hour leading up to the 7pm news. So regular it’s probably good for you.
The first episode went to air on March 25, 2005, profiling dancer Paul Mercurio. Since then, about 100 guests have shared a couch with Thompson in a fairly structured half hour that tends to stick to the original three- section brief: early influences, career choices, highlights and future aspirations.
The format breaks occasionally to feature interviews with family and friends of the subject, show clips of work, and for live performances if the guest happens to be a gigging musician.
Tonight’s guest is veteran Aussie author Tom Keneally.
After the briefest of introductions, Thompson dives in with, ‘‘ Do books change the world?’’
‘‘ I hope that in our groping to the light there are some great books that stand as enlighteners and guides along the way,’’ is just part of Keneally’s answer.
At the two- minute mark, we move to a video that has been recorded in advance, with narration and appear- ances by the author, complete with baby pictures and a folk song soundtrack. This is a great device because it saves Thompson having to run through the job interview routine questions, and it allows Keneally to share with us what he feels is vital in his own background, in words and pictures.
‘‘ I was one of those annoying, rather snotty kids who spilled his ink a lot,’’ Keneally tells us with his typical candour.
Sydney’s northern beaches dwellers will appreciate a tour of the beautiful St Patrick’s Seminary in Manly, where Keneally went in 1953 to study for the priesthood. It stands as an enduring monument to faith and Catholicism, but it was more than the young Keneally could stand: he left to become a young novelist, and quickly married. The acceptance of his first novel put paid to a long period of depression and feelings of failure in relation to quitting.
Though he may lack Denton’s wit and Parkinson’s warmth, Thompson is among the very few interviewers who keep the focus of the program almost entirely on the subject.
No theatrics: Peter Thompson sticks to the straight and narrow