Sunday 23 July 2017

Kirsty Blake Knox: How do you solve a TV problem like Nicky Byrne?

Nicky Byrne represented Ireland in the 2016 Eurovision
Nicky Byrne represented Ireland in the 2016 Eurovision
In the swing: Amanda Byram and Nicky Byrne are the new hosts of RTE's new Show Dancing with the Stars
Home cooking: Sarah Jessica Parker in the Family Stone
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

It's a marriage that should work effortlessly; former Westlifer Nicky Byrne and shiny-floor entertainment TV.

On paper, Nicky is perfect telly material; he was a boyband heartthrob, has good teeth and a great jaw line and is in possession of an impish charm that makes him irresistible to mams everywhere. But in a curious showbiz anomaly, Nicky and telly have never quite been able to make it work.

To quote Whitney Houston, they've "almost had it all" several times but it's always stalled at that critical moment.

His Eurovision bid fell flat on its televised face in Sweden. And his previous RTÉ shows The Hit and Million Euro Challenge left viewers confused, disgruntled and longing for the return of Marty Whelan's moustache.

Amanda Byram and Nicky Byrne will host the show while Blathnaid Ni Treacy will host the spin-off programme
Amanda Byram and Nicky Byrne will host the show while Blathnaid Ni Treacy will host the spin-off programme

But Nicky promises his new gig - co-hosting Dancing with the Stars with Amanda Byram - is going to be a different story altogether.

"It's not like the Euro Million Challenge, as I don't have a mathematical equation to explain," he said cheerfully at the launch in RTÉ. "It is a tried-and-tested format - it works." Here's hoping he's right.

While RTÉ was spinning mirror balls in Montrose, TV3 introduced hacks to its new Director of Programming, Bill Malone, at the station's 2017 programme briefing.

Bill, who used to be head of RTÉ2, is fluent in media-management parlance.

He loves the word "content" and telling people how passionate he is. "I am passionate about content," he told us. "I love content and in TV, content is king."

According to Bill, it's all about "bringing exciting Irish content and international content" to the table as well as "leveraging content".

"We will always have great content," he added before finally informing everyone that, "you can see the content on the screen." No kidding.

All this talk about content would have carried a little more weight if TV3 had unveiled new programmes. But they didn't - at least not yet. Instead, the station gave us a new channel - Be3.

It's different from TV3, which Bill dubbed the "grown-ups' channel", because this one is especially for 'de wimmin' - who, seemingly, don't appear to qualify as grown ups. "It's female-focused content," Bill said, using his favourite word again.

This means that Be3 will screen, wait for it, ladies, Midsomer Murders, Benidorm, Miss Marple and other ITV repeats. Gee whizz - what a treat!

No trimmings: dining out on Christmas Day just a disaster

Get this, it turns out one in five Irish people would like to dine out on Christmas Day.

Well, my friends, I’ve been that soldier, I’ve taken that bullet and let me tell you — it ain’t fun.

I was 15 when my mum decided enough was enough.

She sat us down and calmly explained that she’d spent every Christmas Day “slaving away in the kitchen while you and your father sit on your fat arses watching TV and shoving Cadbury Roses down your throats.”

She’d had enough of “pudding and stuffing and cranberry f**king sauce”. Not to mention “the dishes! I’m sick to my back teeth of the bloody dishes. I’m not doing it this year. I’m. Not. Fecking. Doing. It!”

And so on Christmas Day, after we had opened our presents in a house that didn’t smell of succulent roast potatoes or boozy fruit pudding, we headed to a local hotel restaurant.

It was completely empty save the bar staff, who understandably harboured a deep-seated hatred for us all.

“Isn’t this fun?” my mum said. “No,” my sister replied. Listening to a pan pipe version of ‘Frosty the Snowman’, we ordered five different dinners. I had the cod — a terrible decision. No one should ever eat cod on Christmas Day. It’s like being served tripe instead of birthday cake. We read out cracker jokes. No one got particularly drunk. Then we got in the car and drove home.

We all knew it had been a bit of a disaster but the scale of the calamity hit home the following day. It was around 11am when we all suddenly realised there would be no Stephen’s Day sandwiches.

Then, our world fell apart, because quite frankly what is Stephen’s Day without turkey-and-stuffing sandwiches? One of us went to Spar and got a pack of turkey but it wasn’t the same. To summarise, what should have been two fantastic days of abandoned gluttony had been reduced to a poor man’s fish supper and a convenience store sandwich.

Thus, I implore you — don’t dine out on Christmas. No matter how much you hate your family — just steel your resolve, brace yourself for the arguments and please, won’t somebody think of the sandwiches?

Waiting for Godot, Johnny and Jamiroquai

Nineties space cowboy Jamiroquai and austere playwright Samuel Beckett may not seem to have anything in common.

But don’t be deceived — they share a unique, albeit slightly tenuous, link.

In the 1990s, singer, qualified helicopter pilot and head-wear enthusiast Jay Kay & Co nipped around the UK aboard a shiny black bus. When the band temporarily called it a day in 2007, the bus was sold and found its way over to Ireland.

Here, actors Stephen Brennan, Alan Stanford, Barry McGovern and the late, great Johnny Murphy made it their home for eight weeks during the Gate Theatre’s 2008 all-Ireland tour of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The tour was filmed for new documentary The Waiting Game — which **shameless plug alert** — me Da made. It premiered at the IFI this week and is a tribute to The Commitments star Johnny Murphy.

“I am glad to say on this occasion, what happened on tour, has not stayed on tour,” Brennan said.

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