Saturday 20 October 2018

Message received as Vincent enters a brave new world

TELEVISION Questions & Answers (RTE1) Tonight With Vincent Browne (TV3) Setanta Sports

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Now there's an odd thing. Both Questions & Answers and The Week In Politics were shown an hour earlier than usual last week. What could it mean?

Maybe they just didn't have enough repeats to fill the empty hours. Maybe the BBC recently decided to show their current affairs programmes an hour earlier, obliging RTE to follow suit.

Or was it just a gesture to the poor ould fellas who might have some chance of staying awake past the first question, if Q&A kicks off at 9.30? (Of course, like all gestures towards the poor ould fellas, it would be a token one, too little and too late, as the series is about to go on its endless holiday.)

Or is RTE now so detached from reality it is operating in its own time-zone, in which the clocks go back in June?

There was something different too, about Tonight With Vincent Browne. Nothing as obvious as an early start, but something more subtle, something that had clearly improved the show, that you couldn't quite identify but which kept nagging at you until finally, it hit you.

There were no unfunny texts.

And since all texts from viewers are, by law, unfunny, this means that Vincent had not read out any texts at all.

Certainly on Tuesday and Wednesday, unless I fell into a deep sleep in subconscious anticipation of some hilarious line about swine flu in Leinster House, there were no texts.

Indeed many viewers at that time are never quite sure if they are alive or dead, or just hallucinating that Leo Varadkar is on again.

I phoned a friend, to confirm. He said that if I was a contestant on ...Millionaire, and I was phoning him with this question, he would say he was 99 per cent sure that Vincent had not read any texts, for the entire duration of Wednesday's discussion on Lisbon.

Could it be, that my wise words on this subject have finally been heeded? Has Vincent finally given up that struggle?

Interestingly, it was Lisbon which signalled another decisive moment in the career of Vincent Browne, but not in a good way.

Riding along in my automobile one day, I heard this radio ad for Village magazine. It featured Vincent, declaring that the next issue of Village would be bringing all sorts of clarity to the Lisbon Treaty.

He was promising this with the sort of enthusiasm you'd expect to hear from Harvey Norman, declaring that he will actually pay you to take away a three-piece suite, with a plasma screen thrown in.

I knew at that moment, that Village was doomed.

Now I salute this brave departure into a text-free zone, but I confess that I couldn't bear to watch it on Thursday, in case it was a false dawn, and suddenly we were back again in a morass of texts criticising the fact that there were no texts the previous night, with another hilarious quip about TDs going on holidays to places where they'll get the swine flu.

I will keep, as they say, a watching brief.

It is such small things that make the difference. I would also offer free consultation to Setanta, on the subject of their yellow-and-black livery.

At no point in the recent coverage of Setanta's troubles, was it suggested that if you're paying fantastic sums for the rights to show football, you might also spend a few quid on a vaguely acceptable colour scheme -- then again, maybe they did pay someone a fantastic sum for that yellow-and-black effect, which sends out exactly the message they don't want to be sending out, that this is a yellow-pack version of Sky.

Famously, they bid too little for their Monday night Premiership games, a false economy which has brought them to the verge of ruin. But false economies could be seen every day on their rolling news service, which just doesn't roll fast enough in these times when there is a tsunami of information at everyone's disposal.

Setanta presenters with a bit of personality and worldly wisdom such as Daire "Go Easy" O'Brien should be out front at all times, bringing an obsessive zeal to the task that might compensate for all the yellowness.

I want Setanta to live long and prosper, as we need all the TV sport we can get -- there is no such thing as enough.

But they need the right "talent", front and centre, all-knowing and fiercely committed, more like the lads on Newstalk's Off The Ball than the groomed corporate hosts on the untouchable Sky.

And they should listen to me.

I am turning around the Vincent Browne show, after all. Which may be just one programme, in the much-maligned area of light entertainment.

But still...

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