Tuesday 11 December 2018

Mike Murphy's RTE comeback

For decades he was one of Ireland's top media personalities, fronting hit shows The Live Mike and Murphy's America.

He launched the career of Father Ted star Dermot Morgan, was the first host of Winning Streak, and once tricked Gay Byrne into saying "F*** off" on TV by dressing up as a French tourist.

Then, in 2002, he walked away from his television career to become a property developer.

Now The Diary can exclusively reveal that Irish broadcasting legend Mike Murphy is set to return to RTÉ screens this September in a series of one-on-one interviews with people in public life.

The 69-year-old Dubliner is in "advanced talks" with RTÉ for his first series with the station in more than nine years.

Six programmes are planned in which the veteran broadcaster will interview a range of "interesting people".

All going to plan, the new show is expected to be one of the highlights of RTÉ's autumn schedule.

But why Mike? Said a station insider: "Mike Murphy remains a national asset.

"Although he left RTÉ some years ago, there has always been contact between Mike and the station. The fact that he worked outside broadcasting has given him valuable life experience which makes him eminently suitable for interviewing, not just celebrities, but people from all walks of life."

Another RTÉ source believes the new Mike Murphy vehicle could be the perfect replacement for Ryan Confidential, the high profile interview programme Gerry Ryan hosted for the station, until his untimely death last year.

But could RTÉ not come up with a younger man to fill Gerry's shoes?

"RTÉ have a stable of young and middle-aged presenters but at the same time why shouldn't there be older presenters on screen too? In the case of Mike Murphy, somebody viewers have known over many years, and who remains a good draw to bring in an audience," a station source added.

Evidence that RTÉ were missing Mike came three years ago when he featured in a two part documentary The Lives Of Mike, in which he looked back on his career, as well as RTE2 TV re-running his 30-year-old Murphy's America series.

But station chiefs had better watch out if Mike's proposed show turns into the kind of ratings winners which made his name.

After three runs of The Live Mike, Mike Murphy cancelled his own show in 1982 to the horror of RTÉ management.

No one was more appalled than his great rival Gay Byrne.

Speaking in 2007, Mike recounted: "I think Gay often saw me as a slightly naughty younger brother . . . and after I chucked in The Live Mike he told me he thought I had lost my marbles.

"He told me I'd thrown my career away, and when I told him I just didn't enjoy it any more, he could not understand. He wasn't having a go at me, he was very concerned and genuinely thought I had ruined everything for myself." Gay might have a few more things to say now.

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