Sunday 21 January 2018

Last night’s TV: Loose Women

Diarmuid Doyle

Loose Women (ITV) and Midday (TV3) may have similar formats, but they are substantially different beasts. Watching Loose Women is like tuning in to a conversation in a pub. Midday is more like overhearing a chat on public transport. Perhaps it should be called Luas Women.

That is not to criticise one and praise the other. There’s a time and a place for everything, and TV3 has gone for the more restrained route.

Yesterday both programmes discussed a new survey which shows that women’s feet have grown in average size over the last fifteen years.

On Midday, the chat was all very polite, as Colette Fitzpatrick’s four guests – Fiona Looney, Jules Fallon, Mary McEvoy and Angela Douglas – discussed their shoe sizes in what might be termed a mutually supportive manner.

On Loose Women, they got their feet out, plonked them on the desk in front of them and slagged each other off. The four women here – presenter Kate Thornton, Denise Welch, Lynda Bellingham and Carol McGiffin – seem to be much more friendly and at ease with other than their counterparts on TV3, unafraid to joke and josh around, safe in the knowledge that nobody is going to take offence.

The Midday women all appear to like and respect each other, but they don’t give the impression that they ever see each other outside the studio or would describe each other as friends. That same sense of sisterly warmth isn’t there.

Loose Women and Midday are male-free zones, and are all the better for it. The exclusion is not done in a hostile way. It’s just that mixed groups interact differently than same sex gatherings. The conversations would be different with men involved. Both shows would be substantially altered from what their viewers know and like.

For obvious reasons, those viewers are predominantly female. There really isn’t anything here for men, unless they are going through a“I just don’t understand women” phase and are looking for study tips.

I never again in my life want to hear a conversation about shoe sizes, for example, and was happy to be able to switch over to Sky Sports News when I was finished with both shows. Again, that’s not a criticism. Some programmes, despite attempts at cross-gender appeal, are more suitable to men, and some to women. In other words, if you’re a bloke at home at lunchtime, go for a walk. Or feed the children.

Midday is happier in the wider world of current affairs than Loose Women, where the focus is narrower. It even has a reasonably comprehensive news bulletin near the start. Yesterday, Dana’s possible entry into the presidential race was up for discussion, and the consensus was that she wouldn’t run.

Jules Fallon suggested that Dana was somebody who was desperate to get on television and would do anything to achieve her aim. “Ah come on, look at us,” Mary McEvoy said.

It was a funny line, delivered by an accomplished actress, but it only served to highlight the lack of humour on Midday. That comes back to the slightly strained and restrained nature of proceedings. It’s a bit early in the day for drinking, but the thought occurred to me a few times yesterday that if they’d all had a quick gin before going on air, it might have loosened them up a little.

Maybe that’s what ITV’s Loose Women do. Whatever their secret, they make for better television.

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