Sunday 19 November 2017

Comment: It’s officially time to give up on The Ray D’Arcy Show

It's time to give up on The Ray D'Arcy Show but not the man himself, writes Darragh McManus

Ray D'Arcy
Ray D'Arcy
Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden on the Ray D'Arcy Show
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

It’s about two years since Ray D’Arcy left Today FM for RTE in a highly publicised, and very big-money, return to where it all started, for a two-pronged assault on the public’s affections, radio and telly. Has it been worth it?

Watching last weekend’s self-titled chat-show on RTE One, you’d have to say no – but that comes with two large-ish caveats.

The Kildare man’s patented brand of breezy-but-intelligent radio had built up a sterling reputation and huge audience on Today FM (indeed he was a central plank of their success, and the station has struggled since).

Since coming back to RTE, his radio programme The Ray D’Arcy Show (confusingly, it has the same name as the TV programme) struggled to forge out an identity for itself, and lost some of the audience share for that slot.

Ray D'Arcy hosts the RTÉ show Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ray D'Arcy hosts the RTÉ show Photo: Steve Humphreys

However – caveat number one here – things have slowly but surely improved on the airwaves over the last year or so. D’Arcy now seems more confident and comfortable on Radio 1, and his show, while not exactly breaking new ground, is generally a solid effort and a decent time-filler in that tricky mid-afternoon slot.

And the most recent JNLR figures show that the public is starting to come around. The Ray D’Arcy Show was the biggest winner in October, adding 12,000 listeners for a fairly impressive average daily audience of 216,000.At the time, he commented, “We are hitting our stride and it’s great to see that reflected in these JNLRs.”

If only the same could be said of the TV show.

We’ll leave aside the well-publicised bloopers which his Saturday night programme has suffered: the Jack Nicholson impersonator, that horribly ill-judged interview with Pamela Anderson. Mistakes happen to the best of us.

That time Pamela Anderson appeared on The Ray D'Arcy Show
That time Pamela Anderson appeared on The Ray D'Arcy Show

The main problem with The Ray D’Arcy Show, TV version, is that it’s often flat, dull, boring; and there’s little sign of improvement.

The show is no worse than it was at the beginning, but it’s no better either.

It started out being not great, and it’s still not great.

The worst thing, of course, is the quality of the guests.

Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden on the Ray D'Arcy Show
Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden on the Ray D'Arcy Show

Last Saturday, for instance, saw D’Arcy chatting to Dr Eva, off one RTE show, about her role in another RTE show; two contestants from yet another RTE show, alongside a bit of enjoyable daftness called Tinder on the Telly; and singer Mary Coughlan, not exactly a huge star but at least not just there to hawk (another) another RTE show.

The whole thing feels rather pointless, really, especially since the Late Late is treading essentially the same ground just 24 hours before. But now here comes caveat number two: there’s little that D’Arcy can do about the guests.

That’s the way of the world now. There are far fewer interesting celebs out there, willing to talk honestly and for its own sake, not just to shill their latest product. The very few that do become available will be snaffled up by the Late Late, running as it does a day earlier

And Ireland is a tiny country, which means A) even fewer celebs of our own, and B) the international stars often don’t even bother coming here now – they just do Graham Norton and reach an Irish audience that way.

So has D’Arcy’s return to RTE been a disappointment? Yes, but the situation isn’t irredeemable.

He proved himself as a likeable, talented presenter of light entertainment on You’re a Star, back in the day. And there’s absolutely no need for a Saturday night chat-show on RTE.

For me, they should dump this Ray D’Arcy Show and – if insistent on using him in the Saturday night slot – give him an X Factor-type talent show, or a talk-show but with a radically reengineered format (Brendan O’Connor and Tommy Tiernan have done this, and it’s working out quite well so far).

Even some sort of Ant & Dec-style nonsense – anything but a stale re-tread of the standard chat-show set-up.

The question of whether this return was the right move, for man and station, remains to be definitively answered.

For the moment, D’Arcy is maintaining a steady course on radio – but the complete opposite to “steady” is needed, you feel, to reboot his TV career.

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