Tanya Sweeney: Xposé boasts an impressive legacy but was never able to shake off its Celtic Tiger provenance
Described for years as one of TV3’s flagship offerings, Xposé was once baked into Ireland’s televisual tapestry. At the height of the Celtic Tiger, it was an unassailable media monster that was glossy of hair and shiny of teeth. It was the mindless excess and unabashed (if occasionally faltering) glamour of the era writ large.
Alas, Xposé is destined for the great Carlow boutique in the sky, and is set to plug its last ‘can’t do without’ product and/or deliver its last showbiz package on October 4.
Xposé, admittedly, hasn’t been in rude health for a while, not least after it was moved from a daily slot to a weekly one in February.
Yet after 12 years on Irish screens, it has become the latest casualty in Virgin Media’s shake-up, with the station’s MD Pat Kiely commenting: “This means we must move with the times and reflect changing tastes and media consumption. It also means having to make tough decisions to ensure we remain viable and relevant.” Well, ouch.
It may have lost its toehold of late, but that’s not to say that Xposé, billed on its Twitter handle as ‘the show that brings you closer to the stars’, hasn’t had its place on the landscape.
Bringing you closer to the stars usually costs money, and Xposé did a fine job doing that on a relatively puny budget. They often punched above their weight in terms of Hollywood talent access, and the production team and presenters were known in the industry for working on their items at a breakneck pace, often editing en route from whatever shindig they’d just attended. All the while, its presenters – starting with original anchor Lorraine Keane - were immediately recognisable; an all-strutting glam squad synonymous with style and a certain kind of femininity.
Yet Xposé has never truly been able to shake off its Celtic Tiger provenance; nor has it really wanted to. When the glittery consumerism of the Noughties seemed outré and naff during the recession, Xposé stuck to their guns and upcycled their modus operandi as a sort of ‘aspirational escapism’. And, for all the nimble efforts of its production team, Xposé has been bewilderingly slow to adapt and evolve in the face of much competition.
These days, Xposé’s target audience loves fast fashion, YouTube tutorials, and Snapchat conversations. Television is not where they get their intel. They often have the inside track on what’s happening in showbiz even before the mainstream media do. And, in a world where the showbiz news cycle is best described as breakneck, Xposé ran ‘breaking’ news stories that had already lived plenty of life online 12, or even 24, hours previously. A possible defence for this might well be that Xposé was meant as a nifty means to catch up on the day’s major shenanigans post-work, but in an always-online world, who is really catching up anymore?
Xposé was also aimed, for a long time, at a very certain kind of woman; glossy, moneyed, honeyed extensions, probably seeing someone in finance, Zumba on Saturday mornings. All very well, but it did mean that vast numbers of other women felt that the show said very little to them. As a style and showbiz show, Xposé was not designed to be all things to all women. But let’s be honest, its parameters on style, culture and womanhood could certainly have been widened out more. And in the #spon era, Xposé’s mantle as a vehicle for glossy, girlie brands would have found a home online, yet made it something of a throwback anomaly in the modern landscape.
There have been recent attempts to change things up on the diversity front, too: Peter O’Riordan spent a brief stint anchoring the show before he moved back to the US in 2017. Nadine Reid was hired as a presenter last year. As the show’s first woman of colour, and plus-sized presenter, she was a blast of fresh air. But it was too little, way too late.
There’s no doubting that Xposé does boast an impressive legacy; it hasn’t been a household name down the years for nothing. But it’s likely that any possible successor wanting to assume its crown will find a more natural home online, and only if they set – not follow - the showbiz and style agenda.