Monday 22 October 2018

TV3's strange new programming policy

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It is truly bewildering. A day hardly goes by now, without the announcement of some new series on TV3. And by this I don't mean that they're showing us something that's also on ITV, or that they rented from Australia, I mean actual Irish programmes with Irish people in them, doing Irish things.



Now I realise that there was a time when there was nothing bewildering about a TV station making TV programmes. By a certain narrow definition, that used to be the general purpose of TV stations, in days of yore.

You'd set up your station, and then you'd need to put something on it for the people to see. And you'd do this, by making TV programmes. There was no way around it really.

But as you wander through the digital wasteland, you can see that there's no need for that any more, when you can just set up your station, and show old programmes that other people made, long ago. Or programmes that no-one else wants to make, about sheepdog trials and gymkhanas and the like.

TV3 used to broadly subscribe to that ethos, but with this strange new policy, it is coming dangerously close to performing a public service here, a concept that is so old-fashioned you half-expect to see Charles Mitchell or Maurice O'Doherty materialising on the screen to read the late-night TV3 news.

There's so much of it, you can hardly keep track. The recent series Surviving The Recession was near enough to being the best thing I have seen about various individuals surviving the recession.

Anything about this subject is going to be watched, as it is the story of all our lives, but this one was considerably better than it needed to be.

The Forgotten Irish has also impressed, with its profoundly sad stories of Paddy getting the boat to England back in the Fifties and Sixties, and surviving somehow to the present day, mostly in dire circumstances -- though a few of them did well for themselves, including a chap who had been in "Artane" and who ended up owning pubs in Birmingham, and The Forgotten Irish found him, too.

I suppose this was also linked to the recession, because it reminded us that we used to simply out-source all these problems to England. And vast amounts of money -- billions indeed -- would come back to Ireland from the poor devils who had been cut loose.

This is just a general impression I get, but TV3 seems to have broadly formed the view that we want as much coverage as we can possibly get of the "downturn", whereas RTE has broadly formed the view that we need something to take our minds off it.

TV3 has got it right here.

Ivan Yates' new TV3 show Business Matters is nominally about business, and about things that matter, and of course about Ivan Yates, but again it's ultimately about the terrible state of the country.

These subtly different attitudes may explain why Vincent Browne ended up on TV3, where he owns the night.

He could have been doing it on RTE, where he was presenting this show on the radio for years. But RTE found a way around that, and with perfect timing too, handing him over to TV3 just as everything was falling apart.

Now it must be said that TV3 was starting with a blank page here, or near enough to it. That they're a bit like the defender who starts scoring a lot of goals -- you find it remarkable because you figure that's not what he went out there to do.

And while I'm in this area, I should also mention the Champions League coverage and TV3's recent acquisition of Fran: Assistant Manager a well-observed spoof series transferred from Setanta for an undisclosed sum.

But then there's the perennial Ireland AM, with another former RTE man, Mark Cagney, and there are the gabfests such as Midday and Midweek which you imagine are using the same chairs and tables as Vincent Browne, but with a bit more attention to the feng shui aspects.

So they're shifting a bit of furniture out there, and it shows.

And I haven't got to The Apprentice yet, which is certainly not unconnected to the recession, thus securing its place in our hearts. Or the essential follow-up You're Fired, which is apparently filmed somewhere in Santry, presumably because someone else is using the room at headquarters.

It was obvious from watching him on RTE's You're A Star that Brendan O'Connor has whatever it takes to work on TV, but then RTE stopped showing You're A Star, and TV3 gave him his own show.

Would there be a sort of a pattern here?

They've also lucked in to an outstanding character in The Apprentice itself, the one called Breffny. He is from Cork, allegedly, but it is abundantly clear that Breffny is from another place altogether, and that he is only visiting us for a while.

Bill himself has a burning ambition to be the first Irishman in space, but it seems that Breffny may have got there before him.

It will be a very ugly scene there, in the boardroom.

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