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Saturday 1 October 2016

RTÉ tries to win 'em back from Netflix with documentaries, gimmicks - and wee Daniel

John Boland

Published 23/08/2016 | 02:30

Ryan Tubridy with dancer Shauna Finn at the RTÉ new season launch at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Photo: Andres Poveda
Ryan Tubridy with dancer Shauna Finn at the RTÉ new season launch at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Photo: Andres Poveda

'Rural Addiction' is the name of an upcoming RTÉ series about drug dependence in Ireland's hinterlands - though it could just as easily describe how RTÉ's financial woes are partly caused by the nation's devotion to Netflix, Amazon and other alluring viewing options.

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So how does our national broadcaster win back these viewers, who by now comprise the majority of our citizens? Well, probably not with the two-part 'Kenny', which is described in yesterday's RTÉ press release about its autumn schedules as charting the "rise, fall and rise again" of our current Taoiseach.

Daniel O’Donnell photobombs the RTÉ ladies, back row from left: Louise O’Neill, Seana Kerslake, Daraine Mulvihill, Jenny Dixon, Dr Eva, Dr Ciara Kelly. Front: Kathryn Thomas, Claire Byrne, Vogue Williams and Miriam O’Callaghan. Photo: Collins
Daniel O’Donnell photobombs the RTÉ ladies, back row from left: Louise O’Neill, Seana Kerslake, Daraine Mulvihill, Jenny Dixon, Dr Eva, Dr Ciara Kelly. Front: Kathryn Thomas, Claire Byrne, Vogue Williams and Miriam O’Callaghan. Photo: Collins

Could they not have waited until he's shafted by Leo, Simon or some other Fine Gael aspirant to the top job? And do disaffected younger viewers give two hoots anyway about our tired old political manoeuvrings?

Maybe these viewers will be snared by the three-part 'Generation Jinxed - Generation F'd', which is aimed directly at them as they "struggle to kickstart their adult lives" (which sounds a bit patronising). Or perhaps by 'Generation What?', which promises to be a "landmark" survey of the country's 18-to-34-year-olds. Maybe 'Tastes Like Home', in which Catherine Fulvio ventures around the globe cooking for young Irish expats, will tickle their fancy.

RTÉ executives love endorsements like "landmark", and so Adrian Lynch, currently the controller of RTÉ One and RTÉ2 (three top execs having defected), assures us that these autumn schedules will feature "groundbreaking" documentaries and "unparalleled" news and sports coverage. Dermot Horan, acting managing director of RTÉ TV, says that the broadcaster's role is to provide programming that "captivates and inspires".

Perhaps newcomers to 'The Tommy Tiernan Show' will be captivated and even inspired by a central gimmick whereby the host discovers the identity of his guests only when they walk out to be interviewed. But those who've seen him performing this high-wire act a few years back may wonder at the point of it all.

But hope springs eternal, even among RTÉ viewers, and perhaps the new batch of health-oriented programmes won't be as drearily do-goody as last season's lot.

Elsewhere, there are also documentary strands that seem promising - including a series on Trinity College. Two original dramas are at the production stage (one of them from the makers of this year's less-than-riveting 'Rebellion') and thus won't be available in time for autumn. Instead viewers will be offered a "darkly comic drama" called 'Can't Cope, Won't Cope', and 'Striking Out', a four-parter set in the world of Ireland's legal system. Drama-lovers can only wish it well and hope for the best while recalling the duds that have constituted most of RTÉ's dramatic fare.

As usual, the arts are thinly represented, with no profiles of Irish writers. However, the visual arts do get a look-in with the competitive series 'Painting the Nation', in which amateur artists vie for the judging panel's ultimate accolade.

Amusement may, or may not, be had with a series of Rubberbandit guides to sex, money and other matters in contemporary Ireland. Meanwhile, the 'Reality Bites' strand returns with such topics as paying for sex, stag weekends and gay lives outside of our capital city.

Daniel O'Donnell fans won't want to miss the second season of 'Daniel and Majella's B&B Road Trip', though many may hurriedly seek alternative viewing - perhaps on Netflix.

  • Five to watch

    • 'Striking Out' Legal drama featuring Amy Huberman.
    • 'First Dates Ireland' Extended from six episodes to 12.
    • 'Dancing With the Stars' Featuring 11 celebrities, it will air on Sunday nights.
    • 'Kenny' Chronicling the "rise, fall and rise again" of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
    • 'Can't Cope, Won't Cope', a six-part comedy to air on RTE 2, telling the story of two Cork-born actresses who are trying to find their way in Dublin

Melanie Finn

Irish Independent

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