Sunday 15 December 2019

Ita O'Kelly: 'RTÉ needs to put its broken 'Toy Show' back in the box for good'

Notebook

Grin and bear it: Ryan Tubridy and a giant furry friend in rehearsals. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Grin and bear it: Ryan Tubridy and a giant furry friend in rehearsals. Photo: Steve Humphreys
'RTÉ, the national broadcaster, must amount to being more than a one-trick pony' (stock photo)
Ita O'Kelly

Ita O'Kelly

To say the RTÉ 'Late Late Toy Show' is a sacred cow in Ireland is somewhat of an understatement.

That it is an outdated dinosaur being flogged to death by RTÉ is a crisp statement of fact. However, that may not be a popular opinion in certain quarters.

The fact that this antiquated format remains RTÉ's biggest offering of the year is symptomatic of all that is wrong with RTÉ.

It cautiously trades on past glories rather than innovating and taking chances to remain relevant in a fast moving media landscape.

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The current 'Toy Show' format was first devised in 1975 by the then show's researcher Pan Collins. It was novel at the time.

She proposed sharing with viewers the stock at their local toy store and bringing in some kids to test-drive the merchandise. The kids proved to be the natural stars. It worked.

To put it in context, most viewers didn't even have a telephone in their home back then.

Looking at the toys on TV was as close as most children got to them.

Roll it on 43 years to this internet age where most people, kids included, have an expensive smartphone in their back pocket and the 'Toy Show' format is now dated and no longer relevant.

Worldwide online shopping is how increasing numbers of viewers land their Christmas shopping.

With increasing awareness about climate change among young people, a show devoted to such conspicuous consumption aimed at children is questionable at best in 2019.

Far from being against nostalgia-filled shows, devoted to the interests of children at Christmas or any other time of the year, I say let's have more of them - but let's change the record.

There is no doubt that RTÉ has in recent years hyped up the 'Toy Show' to frankly ridiculous levels.

Presenter Ryan Tubridy has morphed from the host in the obligatory Christmas jumper to the 'panto-esque' star of the performance, rather than the children themselves.

We cannot forget that RTÉ is broke financially and has had to resort to effectively selling the family silver.

The amount of man hours and resources used to put together a single 'Late Late Toy Show' could easily be used to better effect.

Why not put out several different types of shows for children instead of just one blockbuster chasing the advertising revenue?

Undoubtedly the strongest sections of the existing 'Toy Show' are the magical musical performances by the children.

Let's see much more of this - but please can we dispense with stylised auditions for children throughout the country that smack of marketing for 'The Late Late Show' brand.

The fact that RTÉ saw fit to roll out three additional 'Toy Show Unwrapped' spin-off TV broadcasts this week, as well as the main 'Toy Show' this evening, smacks of desperation by an organisation that has lost direction.

RTÉ, the national broadcaster, must amount to being more than a one-trick pony.

It must innovate to remain relevant and solvent.

It must fix the RTÉ Player and make it functional.

Lots of great people work in RTÉ who never get a chance to shine or reach their potential.

That has to change.

Time to kill the fatted calf and to welcome in some new prodigal sons and daughters, weighted down with compelling 21st century ideas.

Less of 'The Greatest Showman' and more great shows, please.

Irish Independent

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