Tuesday 13 November 2018

'RTE is moving the same old furniture around yet again' - Pat Stacey on replacing Brendan O'Connor with Ray D'Arcy

On air: Ray D’Arcy had Gay Byrne as his first guest on his new radio show. Photo: Brian McEvoy
On air: Ray D’Arcy had Gay Byrne as his first guest on his new radio show. Photo: Brian McEvoy

Pat Stacey

The Saturday Night Show is, as you'll already know if you're among the mystifyingly large number of people who watch it every week, coming to an end after five years.

Host Brendan O'Connor announced on last Saturday's show that the current series, which finishes up on May 30, will be the final one.  It was hardly a bombshell; the rumour that The Saturday Night Show would be getting the chop had been floating aroudn the tiny paddling pool full of plankton that is the Irish media scene for weeks.

Personally, I don't think it will be any great loss, least of all to O'Connor, who's being well compensated with another primetime series, beginning in 2016.  It's no secret either, that the show is being axed to make way for a vehicle featuring RTe's expensive reacquisition Ray D'Arcy.

This is what the RTE puppet masters like to describe as "refreshing" the schedules, when what it really is is what it's always been: just the latest round in the apparently never-ending game of moving the same dreary old furniture around the same dreary old room.

Gaybo makes way for Kenny, whose old corner is filled by Tubridy.  When Kenny moves to a new corner, Tubridy moves into Kenny's old one (for a second time), and Tubridy's former corner is filled by O'Connor.  On and on and on it goes.

And now it's D'Arcy's turn.  The only faintly interesting aspect of the whole wearisome ritual is whether D'Arcy, who's rumoured to be pocketing €500,000 a year from his new contract, is the right fit for his new berth.

While there's been no concrete announcement yet, the rumours emanating from the Montrose corridor of whispers is that D'Arcy's new show won't be straightforward, like-for-like replacement for The Saturday Night Show.  It won't be a regular chat show at all, in fact, but a broader entertainment show in the vein of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.

I was never a fan of The Saturday Night Show - The Late Late Show in its current state is bad enough without having a low-cal chaser the following night - but the news that RTE might be trying its hand at the kind of free-wheeling light entertainment extravaganza that's turned the Geordie duo into the most popular figures on television sends a small chill down the spine.

Whatever you think about D'Arcy on the radio (and personally I can live without his mixture of lightweight chat and didactic finger-wagging), he's never come across as the most charismatic of television presences.

With the exception of his time on children's show The den and fronting the schools quiz Blackboard Jungle - which, to be fair, any competent young presenter could have aced - he's always looked as comfortable in front of a TV camera as a snowman in front of a blazing fire.

‘Saturday Night Show’ matches ‘Late Late Show’ audience share on weekend Brendan O’Connor confirms series ending 

The career of the late Gerry Ryan offered a painful lesson.  Ryan was the greatest Irish radio broadcaster of his generation (something that's become even more apparent since his death) and, had he been inclined to, could have walked into a job with any of the big British radio stations.  Chris Evans famously credited listening to Ryan while on holiday in Killarney with inspiring him to return to radio work, effectively rescuing his career.

'It's a long time since Ray D'Arcy has done successful TV so it's a gamble' - Pat Kenny  

But his repeated attempts to find a television vehicle to fit his talent and personality were largely disappointing, to put it kindly.  The low-key, sometimes controversial Ryan Confidential, the series he was working on at the time of his death, was as good as it got.

As that great sage dirty Harry said in Magnum Force: "A man's got to know his limitations."

'It wasn't my decision' - Ray D'Arcy on taking over Saturday night slot from Brendan O'Connor 


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