Television: New Year revolution needed at RTÉ
^^ After serving up an embarrassing diet of terrible Christmas television, it's time for RTÉ to reflect on its current schedules and make big changes. Tired Late Late Show, Prime Time, and Questions and Answers formats will need to be replaced with something fresh ahead of the upcoming general election
Christmas television was unusually awful this year. Third rate movies, no-rate comedy and bloody wall-to-wall sport on Stephen's Day. Wasn't there a senior executive fired in RTÉ a few years ago from a bad New Year's Eve programme – or was it the weather? Has nobody out there learnt anything?
Panto Pat! ...oh yes he is.
The Pat Shortt slapstick stuff is beyond risible. The Après Match replays were, well, replays, slightly funny at times (the guy who does Bill O'Herlihy has caught the Cork sense of importance to a tee) but while the Eamon Dunphy take-off was funny in the 1990s, it's not anymore.
Opportunity then to review the broadcast media over the year (I assume I am allowed stray back to my former beat on radio, just this once?). First The Late Late Show.
There is a major problem with it – the presenter. There are several who would be better: Hector, Ray D'Arcy, Derek Mooney, Miriam O'Callaghan, George Hook, Mary Kennedy, Gráinne Ní Seoige. But Pat Kenny is the presenter and there are obvious ways the Show could be improved, given him. He is clever, has a good voice, knows cameras and how to pace a programme. He knows about current affairs, can handle weightier stuff, isn't bad at introducing acts but, please, please keep him away from “celebrities” or those he thinks are “celebrities”. Change the set, have it more of a “round”, don't leave him alone with single interviewees, set up genuine debates and do so carefully. Let it rip. Tear up the script, the format, the running order. It could work. Certainly better than it does now.
Re Prime Time: Primetime Investigates has done wonderful stuff but the twice-weekly Prime Time? Not so wonderful. Too much of a set piece now. Too little flexibility with the format – two items, each with a fixed introduction followed by a stiff, hurried interview. Waste of time for the most part. Leave time for good TV debates on issues that matter.
Questions and Answers? Sell-by-date problems. Format dead, questions dead, panellists dead. John Bowman wishing he was dead. Audience? Rigor mortis.
For this coming election, how about head-to-head debates between the likes of Michael McDowell and Pat Rabbitte or Joe Higgins and Mary Harney, or Brian Cowan and Richard Bruton? Let them slug it out and have an audience adjudicate afterwards on what they thought. Better than the formats currently devised.
Also, how about some good profiles, probing not just the politics but the personalities of our would-be rulers? There was a profile of the Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, over the Christmas period. It was a fascinating psychological profile. Why not that on politicians?
And a few thoughts on radio.
Ryan Tubridy has improved. The blather quotient on his radio show has decreased by about two-thirds, but there is room to go. For instance, he starts every programme with a burst of blather. Why doesn't some one tell him to shut up? Just introduce the programme? And shut up more during interviews which are now of more substance than previously.
That Tubridy fellow has a chance of making it in broadcasting provided he stops talking so much and provided he doesn't lose sight of the reality that, like everyone else in RTÉ, he is no star, just a journeyman.
If Pat Kenny could be persuaded to that idea too he would be so much better, even than he is on radio. And he is good on radio. Great voice, great clear delivery (unlike some we won't mention here), intelligent, able to grapple with most ideas, although so damn right-wing politically. Does that bother anybody in RTÉ, by the way? Not that a presenter has political views – for that is unavoidable – but that almost all of them from Morning Ireland to Tubridy, Kenny, News at One, Joe Duffy, Mary Wilson are all so bloody right-wing? All fully paid-up members of the official agenda, all “worried” about crime, all indifferent to left-wing issues or causes?
Next week, back to television exclusively. Promise.