Saturday 22 October 2016

Television: Pat eases himself back into the game

Pat Kenny in the Round, UTV
* Big Brother, TV3
* 'Pin-gate', RTE

Published 16/05/2015 | 02:30

Pat Kenny interviewed Mickey Harte on 'Pat Kenny in the Round'
Pat Kenny interviewed Mickey Harte on 'Pat Kenny in the Round'

What if you launched a TV channel and nobody noticed?

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We're well used to seeing highly vaunted new media projects collapsing and gently disappearing into that good night with barely an eyebrow raised, but UTV Ireland is surely the first TV station to have arrived with a whimper rather than a bang. God knows how little attention it will receive if it ever goes bust.

A small bit in the back page of the Indo? A where-are-they-now on the 'stars' of the station in a few years' time when some enterprising features editor decides to see what happened to those unfortunate enough to work in a place that nobody cares about?

Frankly, this UTV is a bit of a curate's egg - if the curate didn't even know he had an egg.

Having launched with an opening night on New Year's Day that was so soporific it looked as if everybody was on tranquillisers (although could have just been me), the newest addition to our television schedules seems to be operating under a policy of hoping that nobody notices it.

Which, if nothing else, is an undeniably innovative approach to broadcasting.

But given the fact that the station's launch was helmed by Pat Kenny, and given the fact that he is arguably the finest broadcaster in the country, why have they kept him under wraps for so long?

Frankly, it's a bit like dropping your best player to the bench, only to spring him onto the pitch when the game already looks lost.

UTV Ireland has a lot of work to do to shed its image as simply the Republic wing of its parent station, 'Nordy TV' - and the fact that the first guest on Pat Kenny in the Round was Tyrone GAA legend, Mickey Harte, did little to lessen that impression.

That's not to say that he wasn't a worthy guest. While many of us down south couldn't give a fig about the number of All Ireland titles he won with his county, he came to genuine national prominence in the wake of his daughter

Michaela's horrific murder in Mauritius. It was one of those senseless and shocking killings that struck a nerve with people from both sides of the border and both sides of the Northern divide (although, if I recall correctly, one Northern photographer was sacked after she went on a bizarre tirade, which saw her claim: "What goes around, comes around").

There's no doubt that Harte has endured enough tragedy to make a compelling hour of television (the death of young footballer Cormac McEnallan was also covered), but whether he is a product of his generation or his cultural heritage, he managed to retain a steely refusal to play the role of victim and while that is an admirable individual trait, it also makes for frustrating viewing.

Kenny left RTE over its ham-fisted cancellation of his last, and best, show, The Frontline, so it's hardly the wish of an unreasonable mad man to expect him to return to our screens with a similar effort, rather than a show which is so like Piers Morgan's Life Stories that UTV have been forced to come out and... deny that is anything like Piers Morgan's Life Stories.

For a skilled broadcaster who has always been more interested in ideas than personalities, it seems a rather odd type of show, and given the fact that they already have an interview with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in the can, they also kicked things off with a strange choice of guest.

UTV were hoping that by bagging the biggest name in broadcasting they could elevate themselves by proxy.

But like all good players, Kenny better be careful the opposite doesn't happen, and they make him look as small as they - currently - are.

I released a hearty holler of happiness when I discovered that TV3 had secured the rights to Big Brother.

Not because I particularly want to watch TV3, and certainly not because I ever want to watch Big Brother. No, the reason for my delight was one which will probably strike a chord with plenty of blokes. Big Brother has only appeared on Channel 5 for the last few years and because you can't record Channel 5 in this territory, the remote controller insisted that it was watched live in my house.

At least this way, it can now be recorded and that should stop the nightly arguments, tears and recriminations - from me - when it absolutely has to be watched live, to the exclusion of anything else.

This year sees the inevitable inclusion of some witless Irish wannabe who thinks appearing on reality TV is a handy substitute for having an actual personality and Jade Lynch was quick to let everyone know she is a model who is also polyamorous which, as you know, means she doesn't like to be tied to just one relationship at any one time.

And what is her greatest modelling achievement?

Well, she is the proud owner of the title of Miss Vanilla which, I reckon, is the first time 'vanilla' and 'polyamorous' have ever been mentioned in the same sentence.

Did she even cop the irony?

I doubt it.

The sheer insanity of broadcasting regulations around next week's referendum reached new levels of idiocy when Aodhan O Riordain was forced to remove a Yes pin from his lapel, forcing me into the horrible and unexpected realisation that I actually felt sorry for one of the most annoying men to have entered politics in years.

For shame, RTE!

Irish Independent

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