Monday 24 July 2017

Ian O'Doherty: RTÉ has taken a big punt with 'Dancing With The Stars Ireland' - the early signs are not good

Hughie Maughan and Emily Barker performing. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Hughie Maughan and Emily Barker performing. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

One of the great mistakes consistently repeated by Irish broadcasters is their weird desire to ape overseas formats.

RTÉ's latest big budget extravaganza, 'Dancing With The Stars Ireland', is a classic example.

Des Cahill performs his routine. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Des Cahill performs his routine. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

A successful format in the States and the UK, the problem faced by the national broadcaster when trying to replicate such a show is that it starts with an immediate handicap.

For once, we can't even lay the blame at RTÉ's door. No, the simple fact is that we just don't have the stars in this country, not really.

Amanda Byram with Des Bishop and Giulia Dotta as they await the judges’ verdicts. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Amanda Byram with Des Bishop and Giulia Dotta as they await the judges’ verdicts. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

What we do have in abundance, however, is an ever growing coterie of ever willing, always available, vaguely recognisable faces who seem to earn their living by impersonating celebrities.

That's not to say that 'Dancing With The Stars Ireland' is truly awful. It's not. It's probably no more or less awful than any of the other franchises.

The set looks expensive in the sense that it appears to be decorated almost entirely with golden Ferrero Rocher wrappers, and the only person who could arguably approach 'star' level is the presenter Amanda Byram, who is run a close second to that accolade by her junior presenting partner, Nicky Byrne.

Read more: 'Watching people dance, even when they’re not doing it very well, is lovely' - Dancing With The Stars review

So the producers are obviously banking on an awful lot of viewer goodwill when you consider that most of us would probably recognise more of the 'stars' on the American show than we do in the homegrown version.

I'm sure Dayl Cronin is a perfectly nice young man, for example. But I have literally no idea who he is.

Aidan O’Mahony puts his dance partner through her paces. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Aidan O’Mahony puts his dance partner through her paces. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

In fact, even when he introduced himself, saying, 'I'm Dayl and I'm best known for 'Hometown'', I waited a few seconds for him to reveal where his home town actually was.

But no, Hometown are, apparently, a band. Or they were a band. Presumably they're on hiatus if they can spare young Dayl for potentially the next three months.

That's the impressively optimistic schedule for this series, although any doubts about how on earth the producers might be able to squeeze the next 12 weeks out of this soporific sashay through the schedules were certainly answered last night, when they somehow managed to milk two hours out of the show and still didn't actually feature any of the female participants.

Yes, while we had been promised the likes of Katherine Lynch, Teresa Mannion and model Thalia Heffernan, last night concentrated on the men. That in itself seemed a strange way to kick off the proceedings.

Thalia Heffernan and Aoibhin Garrihy during the Dancing with the Stars Live performance. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Thalia Heffernan and Aoibhin Garrihy during the Dancing with the Stars Live performance. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

After all, the only reason many viewers tuned in was to see the acerbic diet doctor Eva Orsmond taken down a peg or two.

Her stern demeanour and public put downs on Strictly Come Dieting - or whatever her show was called - had surely made her the perfect target for some withering criticism from the experts on this panel.

Sadly, while we didn't get to see any of the lady hoofers in action last night, it seems unlikely that we will see much bitchiness from the judges, either.

Like most Irish men, I dance with all the refined grace and style of a frog's corpse having an electrical current run through it, so when the judges were talking about the intricacies of the rumba, they may as well have been discussing an esoteric point of particle physics.

But judges Brian Redmond, Julian Benson and Loraine Barry seem to be competing to be the good cop.

Even if - or rather, when - one of the judges decides to be the bad guy, some of the pre-written links last night were so bad we can only hope they get a joke doctor onto the set, stat.

Read more: 'I was a bit hurt they wrote me off so quickly' - Des Cahill wants to prove his Dancing with the Stars doubters wrong

Des Bishop continued his decade-long hiatus from being funny to kick off the show and, if nothing else, you know he will at least be committed to the project.

The same, perhaps, cannot be said of Des Cahill.

Already in the running to be this year's Jon Sergeant, the veteran sports broadcaster certainly looks like he is determined to have a good time and it's that very affable enthusiasm, which has become Cahill's well earned trade mark, which may yet see him emerge victorious.

Between 'Dancing With The Stars Ireland' and the Amy Huberman vehicle, 'Striking Out', RTÉ is investing a lot of money and resources into its Sunday night line-up.

Whether it will be worth the punt, or another case of our licence fee money disappearing down another Donnybrook drain, remains to be seen. The signs aren't good - for either show.

Irish Independent

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