Saturday 1 October 2016

Here's why Ray D'Arcy's interview with Making a Murderer lawyer Dean Strang didn't work

Published 25/01/2016 | 18:29

Dean Strang on the Ray D'Arcy Show
Dean Strang on the Ray D'Arcy Show

There were enough cringe moments in Ray D'Arcy's interview with Making a Murderer lawyer Dean Strang to fill a 10-part Netflix documentary.

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Where to begin? D'Arcy's joking pronunciation of vehicle as "veh-icle", a breakfast radio-grade gag which left the strait-laced Strang squirming and baffled? The handsomely-recompensed anchor's "um" and "ah"-laced patter?

Actually no – we can agree the absolute nadir came as D'Arcy starting bleating about Strang's freshly acquired status as "sex symbol". Having watched Making A Murderer D'Arcy will have surely understood how such a comment was likely to be received by the serious-minded Strang. Or was he just doing it for "the craic"?

Even before the conversation had wrapped on Saturday night the internet was lit up with criticisms of D'Arcy. In truth, though, the fault wasn't his. He was simply a bad pick to quiz Strang and for that blame must be laid at RTE. What was required was a presenter with a news reporter's grasp of the slippery intricacies of Making A Murderer, the hit documentary which tells of the conviction for murder of Wisconsin man Steven Avery and which exposes alleged failings in the criminal justice system. Instead D'Arcy parachuted into the segment as though back on his old Today FM radio show, yucking it up with a minor pop star or local z-lister.

In what we can agree was a misjudgment, he appeared under the impression that Strang would be up for what is, I believe, referred to in Irish light entertainment as "banter". In fact, the defence attorney was a serious man with a serious message. The American justice system is broken, perhaps beyond repair, and it is only through exposes such as Making A Murderer that this can be set to right.

Viewers of the Netflix hit were aghast that RTE did not make smarter use of this opportunity. What of the charge that, having invested so much in Avery's case, the documentary crew had crossed the line from journalism to advocacy? Was it true that HBO and PBS had both turned Making A Murderer down? Was Strang disappointed that the prosecution lawyers had apparently declined to be interviewed for the series?

D'Arcy did pose one or two pertinent questions, it is true. And regardless of what the Twitter hive-mind may believe, it was obvious that he had a keen interest in both Avery's plight and Strang's insights into the case. Yet these pluses were neutralised by toe-curling small-talk. "I can't help you with that," stuttered nigh-on speechless Strang after D'Arcy had announced that the lawyer had quite the fan club among RTE's female researchers.

On Radio 1, D'Arcy is breezy company, capable of genuine charm. He has perfected a routine particular to Irish broadcasting and much loved by audiences: a 'one of the lads' style that makes it feel as if he his chatting to you from across the garden fence or at the bar of your local.

But while successful on radio, on television the formula can feel creaky at the edges. In D'Arcy's case, especially, the body language is often at variance with his blokey delivery. Seated opposite Avery he was oddly twitchy, as if he'd had a premonition of the Twitter firestorm shortly to engulf him. You can only empathise – hard news has never been his bag and surely it falls to RTE to tailor a show better suited to his undoubted talents?

The tuth is that Strang had an important and compelling story to tell and Montrose decision-makers ought to have been more respectful of that fact. Perhaps the worst that can be said about the D'Arcy-Strang tete-a-tete is that, watching it, you wished the Making A Murderer attorney had been interviewed by Tubridy on the Late Late or even a British broadcaster instead.

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