Sunday 19 November 2017

'The Den' ends after 24 madcap years

Ray D'Arcy with the show's successful sidekicks Zig and Zag
Ray D'Arcy with the show's successful sidekicks Zig and Zag
The original Dempsey's Den, with Ian Dempsey

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Reporter

IT has been home to talking turkeys, sock monsters and loveable aliens but after 24 years entertaining millions of Irish youngsters, RTE is calling time on 'The Den'.

For an entire generation of 20 and 30-somethings who rushed home from school to catch the mad capers of Zig & Zag, Soky and Dustin The Turkey, it's as if a piece of their childhood is being taken away. And they're not happy.

RTE's commissioning editor for young people's programming, Sheila de Courcy, admitted: "I've had emails from people telling me things like 'You can't lose the brand' and 'do you realise how long The Den has been running?'

"None of this matters to a child. You can't tell our young audience 'you must like this, it's 25 years old'.

"Adults get nostalgic. Children only remember yesterday. What's more important is making our programming relevant to young people," she added.

'The Den', or 'Dempsey's Den', as it was originally known, was born in 1986 with DJ Ian Dempsey at the helm, and two aliens from the planet Zog -- Zig and Zag.

He was followed by Ray D'Arcy from 1990-1998, Damien McCaul from 1999-2004 and Francie Boylan Jr from 2003-05 before the tradition of having one presenter vanished.

Dempsey said yesterday: "It will be missed by some, and personally I have some great memories but I suppose it's onwards and upwards."

From next Monday, RTE's children's output will become RTEjr for 6 year olds and younger between 8.30am to 3pm, and TRTÉ for 7 to15 year olds from 3.30pm to 5.30pm.

Ms de Courcy said satellite TV had revolutionised the way children watched television.

"Kids lives have changed so much in the last five years and this is about meeting their needs across three media, on TV, digital radio and online.

"Our competitors are global stations, like Nickelodeon, not local stations. Satellite is an entirely new way of viewing and in order to pool our programmes into that style, we decided on a rebrand," Ms de Courcy added.

New programmes include 'Hubble' on RTEjr, in which Emma O'Driscoll and her puppet pal Ógie have adventures and, on TRTE, 'Super Crew' in which teenage hip hop dancers pursue their dancing dreams.

Irish Independent

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