A new series by the City University of New York’s TV station covers uncharted territory in conversations with some of Ireland and Irish America’s most creative minds.
The 13-part interview series premiered on November 22, its first episode featuring two ostensibly different luminaries: author Colum McCann (TransAtlantic, Let the Great World Spin) and funnyman/TV host Conan O’Brien. Over the course of the episode’s twenty-seven-odd minutes (split between McCann first and O’Brien second), the camera, deftly directed by Lisa Beth Kovetz, allows each of the men to just be themselves as they ponder questions of identity and creativity. By the end, we understand a whole lot more about what separates them, as two individuals from different backgrounds and vantage points, but also the little things that make them surprisingly similar.
Inspired by CUNY TV’s highly successful Black Writers in America series, which was hosted by Ossie Davis and later distributed to national public television stations, Irish Writers in America features 23 cultural icons most people would give anything to sit down and have a chat with: John Banville, Kevin Barry, Jimmy Breslin, Billy Collins, Roddy Doyle, Jennifer Egan, Anne Enright, Mannix Flynn, Pete Hamill, Mary Beth Keane, William Kennedy, Dennis Lehane, Kenneth Lonergan, Colum McCann, Malachy McCourt, Alice McDermott, Paul Muldoon, Conan O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Joseph O’Neill, John Patrick Shanley, Colm Tóibín, and Enda Walsh. Watching these unusually quiet and intimate portrayals, mostly free of narration or any bells and whistles, it’s almost like the viewer has been invited to do just that.
The interviews, some of which include readings, were recorded in a variety of locations, from the writers’ homes to different quiet points around New York City. Most of the episodes feature two interviews back-to-back – some pairings are immediately understandable (William Kennedy and Pete Hamill), others more surprising (Kevin Barry and Mary Beth Keane) – but a few are devoted solely to one person, as is the case with Anne Enright, Alice McDermott and Jimmy Breslin.
Each episode will air on Fridays at 9am, 2pm, and 8pm; Saturdays at 7pm; Sundays at 8:30 am; and will be archived for viewing anytime at www.cuny.tv. There, viewers will also find “web extras” of additional material.
CUNY TV is broadcast on Ch. 25.3 in the tri-state (NY-NJ-CT) region, and cablecast in the five boroughs of New York City on Ch. 75 (Time Warner and Optimum), Ch. 77 (RCN) and Ch. 30 (Verizon). Those living outside the New York metro area fear not: the series will also be live-streamed for mobile, tablet and desktop viewing on Aereo.com.
The episodes will be broadcast in the following order:
1. Conan O’Brien – Colum McCann Premiere – Nov. 22, 23, 24
2. Jennifer Egan – Colm Toibin Nov. 29, 30, Dec. 1
3. Dennis Lehane – John Banville Dec. 6, 7, 8
4. Roddy Doyle – Enda Walsh Dec. 13, 14, 15
5. Anne Enright Dec. 20, 21, 22
6. Edna O’Brien – Mannix Flynn Dec. 27, 28, 29
7. Billy Collins – Paul Muldoon Jan. 3, 4, 5
8. Malachy McCourt – Joseph O’Neill Jan. 10, 11, 12
9. Alice McDermott Jan. 17, 18, 19
10. William Kennedy – Pete Hamill Jan. 24, 25, 26
11. Kevin Barry – Mary Beth Keane Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 2
12. John Patrick Shanley – Kenneth Lonergan Feb. 7, 8, 9
13. Jimmy Breslin Feb. 14, 15, 16
And check out episode 1 here: