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TV50: Nighthawks Rehashed

Nighthawks Rehashed is an hour long affectionate look back at the seminal chat show, set in a fictional diner, which from 1989 -1993 was a must-see series on RTÉ Two and a primary component of the Irish zeitgeist.

This one-off special will be a cornucopia of the best comedy music, soap opera and vintage interviews that stood out from the 289 episodes over the four series of broadcast.
The irreverent chat show was set in a fictional diner loosely based on Edward Hopper's famous painting Nighthawks At The Diner. In a quirky studio café bar chat, comedy and music made up the nightly menu. The finger-on-the-pulse ingredients proved a winning formula and won over a RTÉ Two audience three times a week. It is still celebrated for its unpredictable side dishes, conjured up by the famous, the infamous and the headline makers of the day.

The audience in studio was a vital component of the show. They were served beer and encouraged to "talk amongst themselves," as if they were in a real establishment. As 'proprietor,' Shay Healy, songwriter, broadcaster and journalist, became the ringmaster.
When Dublin actress Joanne McAteer arrived with her fully-formed comedic Eastern European waitress character the temptation was too much to ignore. A 'soap opera' between Shay and Tanya, was delivered in snippets between interviews, music and the shenanigans in the diner and it grew in absurdity as the series progressed. Even though several females succeeded Tanya, her character is the most memorable.'Blaithin' - the fictitious continuity announcer who lived out her personal life on screen - also became a favourite and long associated with the series.

From the beginning, the show deliberately chose to avoid the main thoroughfare and concentrated on guests who were left, or right of centre. The mainly acoustic music in the diner gave a platform to a wide selection of touring music acts, such as Johnny Thunders, Beverly D'Angelo, Mary Coughlan, Joe Elliot and Maria McKee. In the basement bands like Don Baker, Albert Lee, Bree Harris, Stepaside and Shush rocked the walls. One of the iconic moments in Irish comedy was the introduction of Kevin McAleer with his deadpan Tyrone accent who became a regular feature of the series.

Over the four years of its run, Nighthawks kept adding to a repertory company of comic actors like Morgan Jones, Conor Lenihan, Jonathan White, Gina Moxley and Booker Prize-winning author Anne Enright, who not alone acted in sketches, but was also series producer for a year. The greatest surprise of all was the manner in which Irish Times columnist, Ann-Marie Hourihane, emerged as an outstanding comic actress and mimic.

Must-include highlight is the infamous night in Castlerea, where former Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice, Sean Doherty, spilt the beans on Charlie Haughey's complicity in a phone- tapping scandal and the Taoiseach of the day was forced to resign.
In this hour-long special expect the best of Shay & Tanya's soap, Blaithín's PTCs and Kevin McAleer's seminal performances plus the best of interviews, music and comedy.

TV50: Nighthawks Rehashed
  • RTÉ Two, Thursday 27 December, 10.10pm