Tuesday 27 September 2016

It's a lot to expect from one person... that Pat rescues a channel from its current status as something many of us feel is surplus to requirements

John Boland

Published 12/04/2015 | 02:30

Julian Simmons when he landed on Dublin's Grafton street in the search for new faces to introduce the soaps, drama and entertainment.
Julian Simmons when he landed on Dublin's Grafton street in the search for new faces to introduce the soaps, drama and entertainment.

Gosh, how I miss Julian Simmons. Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd write about the camp continuity announcer whose presence was synonymous with the UTV of most of our lifetimes.

  • Go To

However, the Julian-free UTV Ireland, which began broadcasting at the beginning of this year, has been so dreary that viewers may feel inclined to look back on the Coronation Street-loving linkman as a good, or at least quirky, deed in an otherwise dismal world.

And the old UTV certainly was pretty dismal, the timid televisual representative of a regional backwater - a channel which, to those of us not residing in the six counties of its remit, was inextricably linked to the life-sapping provincial Troubles of that sorry statelet.

And yet it also evoked an even earlier and equally depressing era. Despite the channel's dutiful reporting of the daily atrocities that marked the Troubles, somehow it was always the 1950s in UTV land, with lace curtains framing the picture, a Union Jack fluttering wanly off-screen, the aroma of scones wafting from the canteen, and Julian popping up every now and then as the province's primly risqué aunt.

Indeed, d­espite the forced chirpiness of its presenters, you never expected to see or hear anything enlivening, or even vaguely interesting, from its home-produced output, and most of us regarded it merely as the necessary conduit for its British-based ITV programming.

But with the advent of UTV Ireland, even most of those programmes are gone. I looked forward recently to watching the much-touted Conan Doyle drama, Arthur and George, which was being screened by ITV, but, nope, it wasn't there. Neither was the two-part Trevor McDonald documentary on the Mafia.

And this week, instead of the fact-based ITV drama, Code of a Killer, which had been the subject of admiring previews in the British papers and which starred John Simm and David Threlfall, UTV Ireland foisted on us an old episode of Doc Martin, which has long been one of its parent broadcaster's more boring dramas.

Then there's the main evening news, which isn't news at all as it's transmitted one hour after TV3's main evening bulletin and 30 minutes after RTÉ1, BBC1 and Sky News have had their say. So why bother watching it, and why bother, either, with the 10pm news, which comes 60 minutes after RTÉ's main nightly bulletin?

But why bother with UTV Ireland at all? This country already had four television channels, all of them struggling to engage with viewers who were being lured away by other channels and by other technological ways of viewing programmes, so what was the point of a fifth? None, as far as I can make out.

This is not to belittle the contributions of those who are working for UTV Ireland, including those presenters and reporters who are giving their all to make the channel meaningful and interesting - though Alison Comyn and Chris Donoghue haven't yet found a rapport that might make their ­nightly news bulletin more compelling for viewers.

Perhaps Pat Kenny's forthcoming series of discussion-and-interview shows from the Mansion House will become unmissable, though it's a lot to expect of one person that he rescue a channel from its current status as something many of us feel is surplus to our viewing requirements.

TV REVIEW: Thank God we called Saul. PAGE 17

Indo Review

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment