Sunday 23 October 2016

'I don't understand the levels of ferocious criticism levelled at Ray D'Arcy but he's fighting a losing battle'

Ray D'Arcy, RTE One
* Eir Ad, TV3

Published 03/10/2015 | 02:30

Face for TV: Ray D'Arcy made his Saturday night debut on RTE1. Photo: Andres Poveda
Face for TV: Ray D'Arcy made his Saturday night debut on RTE1. Photo: Andres Poveda

Who would be a chat show host? Yes, I know. There are some perks that go with the job - the adoration of millions of women. And the money. Never forget about the money.

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But all of the above really applies only to presenters in Britain and the US. Graham Norton and Alan Carr have it nailed in Britain, and while America will never experience chat show hosts quite like Letterman or Leno ever again, it's still the kind of job that may as well be a licence to print your own money.

But here in Ireland? Frankly, it baffles me why so many people want to get their own show when all they receive for their troubles is abuse, derision and contempt. It's similar to local politics, I suppose - a case of you don't have to be desperate to work here, but it helps.

Even Gay Byrne in his pomp was routinely cast as the most-hated man in Ireland - and that was when the show was doing well.

But the real difference between Irish chat shows and those across either sea is that we are a backwater, a provincial wasteland that is an afterthought for most stars who are only passing through town on a contractually mandated publicity junket.

The genius of stalwarts like Jonathan Ross and, of course, David Letterman was that, as far as they were concerned, it was their studio and the guest was lucky to get on the couch.

In Ireland, sadly, it's the other way around - which is why we see such bowing and scraping from Irish hosts as they treat some Z-list celebrity with the kind of deference normally reserved for people of real distinction.

Ray D'Arcy's first outing was a perfect example. Following his high-profile exit from Today FM, plenty of people have been eagerly awaiting his new show. Sadly for him, however, most of them came armed with cudgels and a glossary of insults at the ready.

I don't understand the levels of ferocious criticism levelled at the man - he's a solid broadcaster with a refreshingly caustic sense of humour and the fact that he may not be to everyone's tastes (who is?) fails to account for the gratuitously personal abuse frequently lobbed in his general direction.

But, dear Lord, his interview with Tulisa was a perfect example of everything that is wrong with Irish chat shows.

With one UK number one single and brief stint as a judge on the X-Factor under her belt, Tulisa has garnered attention for her past run-ins with the tabloid media and the law. But you wouldn't have known it from the interview.

Due to an impressive array of ongoing legal wrangles and a general sense of reluctance to talk about the few things that people may have been interested in, she managed to thrice shut the conversation down with 'we're not going there.'

Well, why was she on the show, then?

A talk show, you would imagine, involves people talking about the things that people want to hear about, not telling the host that they either can't, or simply won't, discuss the very things that may have made people tune in.

Tulisa is planning a comeback and her appearance here was the equivalent of staging a play in the provinces to iron out the kinks before it debuts in the West End.

You do it because you might as well find your groove in a less-pressurised situation, away from the UK media fishbowl and that's exactly what she was up to.

What really grated was that efforts to explore anything topical generated a large dollop of condescension towards D'Arcy, who in fairness to him, seemed to lose the will to live as the interview limped and wheezed towards its conclusion.

I wish D'Arcy the best for the new run but he faces the awkward prospect of becoming known as the man who made RTE bosses question whether there is even any point in having a Saturday night chat show, especially as long as the Late Late is around to hoover up the bigger guests.

It's a simple recognition of logistics and culture - the logistics dictate that a Saturday night show will always be the unloved stepchild relying on hand-me-downs while the culture seems to be one of gratitude from the host.

The other guests, Donncha O'Callaghan and the now obligatory appearance by Tommy Tiernan, were fine. But that's all they were - fine.

There may yet be some water cooler moments from this new run, and he will be fervently praying that happens.

But you're not going to get them from an affable rugby player, a comedian who has shocked so often in the past that he is no longer shocking and a woman who either couldn't or wouldn't provide a decent interview.

If D'Arcy was just fine, let me bring your attention to something which is not fine, not fine at all. In fact, that bloody ad for Eircom or Air or whatever the hell they're calling themselves these days is the one blight on the rugby coverage.

Somehow chanting pretentious gibberish is now considered to be cutting edge but it's not and it never will be. What it is, however, is something remarkably po faced and so irritating that I nearly broke my shoulder diving for the remote the last time it came on.

But it's not just the song which has seen me grind my teeth down to calcified stumps - it's the fact that you just know the kind of bearded hipster eejits who thinks it's great would never actually listen to it if they were on their own. So there.

Read more: The Ray D'Arcy Show review: 'Brendan O'Connor must be wondering what he did wrong'

Irish Independent

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