Tuesday 1 December 2015

Seoige sisters have far to fall after their meteoric RTE rise

Roddy O'Connor

Published 25/04/2009 | 00:00

The Seoige sisters pictured after their final show on their way into Alfie's restaurant on South William Street in Dublin to meet friends and colleagues, including veteran broadcaster Larry Gogan
The Seoige sisters pictured after their final show on their way into Alfie's restaurant on South William Street in Dublin to meet friends and colleagues, including veteran broadcaster Larry Gogan

These are brutal times in television land -- and it's unlikely the careers of the Seoige sisters will ever recover following their unceremonious dumping from the RTE afternoon schedule.

The feeling within the higher levels of RTE management is that some of the station's big name stars are out of touch with the reality of the tough recessionary times we live in.

The powers that be within the station realise RTE is ever more dependent on the licence fee -- taxpayers' money -- to keep the show on the road.

The recent debacle about proposed salary cuts -- which showed some names to be among the highest paid TV presenters in western Europe -- did the station's image untold harm with some members of the public and, more importantly, with senior Government ministers and civil servants.

The brutal ending of the Seoige sisters' bandwagon is seen as sending out a very ominous signal to some of the station's best known names.


The clear inference is that nobody is indispensable and a much tougher management line is now on the cards.

There is more than a certain irony in the fact that Grainne Seoige gushed on the cover of this month's 'VIP' magazine: "I'm living the dream."

Photographed across eight glossy pages, she enthuses about the success of the 'Seoige' show, which she has co-presented with her younger sister Sile since last October.

The Irish equivalent of 'Hello!' has chronicled the romances of various Irish celebs, only for them to break up soon afterwards.

Grainne's sister Sile (29) was one of those whose wedding made a glamorous cover story for the magazine but who subsequently split from her partner.

Alfie's restaurant in Dublin's South William Street was the venue for the Seoige wrap party last night but it was more of a wake than the party Tyrone Productions planned.

The bombshell came out of nowhere on Tuesday, and Sile, replying to a viewer upset at the demise of the once-golden duo of the Irish TV world, admitted she hadn't seen the axe coming.

Their emotions of shock and disappointment were a million miles from the hoopla and celebrations when the Spiddal sisters were wheeled out last summer by an RTE press executive as the new bright hopes of daytime programming.

That Montrose photocall had been strategically timed. It was the height of the media's silly season and the photographs of the glossy, highly coiffed sisters garnered thousands of newspaper inches two months before the show began. Their delighted parents, community garda Martin, and housewife Phil, travelled up for the first show. Joining in the celebrations were Grainne's teenage son Conal and her husband of seven years, TV producer Stephen Cullinane.

After two seasons with affable sidekick Joe O'Shea, critics speculated that Grainne's demeanour might change with baby sister on the couch. There were high hopes she might lose the ice maiden label which has dogged her from her newsreading days on TV3 and throughout her stint at Sky News.

"Working with Sile means I am more natural because the real me comes through. You can't fake it with your sister," she told 'VIP' this month.

But the ice maiden thaw just didn't happen, despite RTE's attempts to turn Grainne into the girl next door. Her diary filled up impressively but at Mary Kennedy's expense who lost two prestigious gigs, 'Up For The Match' and 'People Of The Year', to her.

The RTE canteen went into overdrive especially as Kennedy is so popular, with both station staff and viewers alike. When Ryan Tubridy questioned Kennedy live on his radio show about whether the decision to take the shows away from her was based on age, he was accused by her fans of ambushing her live on air. When he interviewed Grainne on his Radio One show shortly afterwards about getting the gigs, the anger deepened among Kennedy enthusiasts.

There was much jealousy and resentment within RTE when Grainne brought her personal styling team to the station in 2006. Stylist Catherine Condell was a regular visitor, bearing armfuls of designer labels, while Michael Leong teased the presenter's brunette hair and make-up artist and close friend Ken Boylan completed the team.

However, the two sisters tried to silence their critics before they could accuse them of unrestrained diva behaviour when the Galway girls took their seats alongside everyone else in the RTE make-up room.


Deflecting stories about sibling rivalry, Grainne was proud of their unique brand. "There's nowhere in the western world where this happens, so I'd love to see it go on,'' she said.

Season one saw drama when Grainne on one occasion left the studio in tears. The rumour mill said she had been allegedly called a "precious diva" by a member of staff, while others maintained the incident flared when she wanted to check her hair and make-up in a monitor.

Both of the Seoiges are managed by talent agent Noel Kelly, who also represents Ryan Tubridy, Gerry Ryan, Craig Doyle, Dave Fanning, Diarmuid Gavin and Lorraine Keane, plus another 20 or so names. Last July, Grainne posed with Mr Kelly and some of his other stars for an infamous "Godfather'' shoot in a Sunday newspaper magazine. It raised lots of eyebrows within the cash-strapped station, given that the key tenor of the piece was that these well-known names are more than capable of extracting highly generous contracts from RTE whatever the state of its finances.

Just a month ago, relaxing at the palatial Carton House in Maynooth, Grainne told her 'VIP' interviewer: "If you said to me five years ago I'd have my own chat show with my sister, I'd have said you were barmy!"

Without a regular series, Grainne's profile is set to nosedive with a consequential sharp drop in her overall earnings.

For her sister Sile, it has been an annus horribilis. At 29, she is now faced with key decisions affecting both her professional and personal life. It is likely her best hope of pursuing her television career is a move back to TG4.

A not unimportant fact is that the Seoige programme was expected to deliver a much bigger audience than what the much-hyped sisters achieved.

This unpalatable reality -- coupled with a failure to always remember one should never believe one's own media publicity -- was what finally did them down.

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