Tuesday 21 October 2014

Playing it safe with Pat is still a bold step by UTV

Published 20/08/2014 | 02:30

Jonathan Ross will be a big attraction for UTV

Pat Kenny is often lampooned as boring, staid, robotic - the ultimate pair of safe (even conservative) hands.

It's ironic then that, this late into the game, the veteran broadcaster continues to surprise and wrong-foot us.

First there was the seismic move from RTE to Newstalk, around this time last year. And yesterday he returned to television as the spearhead of UTV's Irish operations, coming on air in early 2015.

The details are a little vague - "a new peak-time series" is all we have so far - but it's still the main plank (no pun intended) of the fledgling station's output. Is it a wise move?

For Pat, probably yes. If worst comes to worst and the new show falls horribly flat, what of it? He's at a stage in his career where he can afford to take risks; indeed by his own admission, he welcomes them.

For UTV, it strikes me as an odd, almost self-contradictory sort of move. On one hand, Pat's a big name, guaranteed to draw attention and presumably a fair few viewers. On the other, it seems a bit unimaginative and playing-safe: "Get the superstar of Irish broadcasting and find somewhere to put him."

That's understandable to some extent in a start-up, but still: this is both a bold statement of intent, and not a bold statement of intent, at the same time.

Or perhaps, playing it safe with Pat is the bold statement.

Yes, it is confusing.

Apart from PK, the big attractions for UTV will be ratings behemoths like Graham Norton, I'm a Celebrity Get Me out of Here!, Saturday Night Takeaway, Coronation Street, This Morning, Loose Women and Jonathan Ross.

Of course, this means that TV3's schedules will be denuded of almost all their major programmes. Such is life in the Darwinian shark-tank of competitive broadcasting.

UTV also promise some home-grown TV: Ireland Live is described as "a 30-minute round-up of all the day's news from home and abroad with a specific sports focus on Fridays, while Ireland Live at 10 is "a 60-minute news and current affairs programme, which will facilitate debate and expert reaction on topical issues." They also promise to commission further Irish-made material.

Does all this inspire much excitement in the viewer? Not particularly. But it'll be interesting to see what Pat delivers.

If it's up to the standard of his Newstalk radio show, it won't be half-bad at all.

Irish Independent

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