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Craig Doyle Live is dead TV

In Hollywood, when scriptwriters don't want to be associated with a script, they use the makey-up scriptwriter name "Alan Smithee". In RTE when a presenter doesn't want to be associated with a doomed television format, the studio removes them with CGI and says the show is presented by "Craig Doyle". Apparently it's surprisingly easy to make a "Craig Doyle" with an Action Man head and some play-dough. This is why "Craig Doyle" keeps getting on the telly.

The Action Man head was put to good use twice this week with Craig Doyle Live. It seems RTE management weren't entirely convinced they'd properly killed off the chat show format with The Social ("Craig Doyle's" 2011 chat-rocity) and were back to finish the job.


"Can't you see it's already dead!" I wept, as "Craig Doyle" rifled through the corpse of chat accompanied by comedic accomplices and guests Louis Walsh (on Tuesday) and X Factor contestant Johnny Robinson (Thursday).

There was upsetting comedy involving "Craig Doyle", RTE product placement (contestants from Don't Tell the Bride), anticlimactic waffling from Walsh and vulnerable humanity from Robinson. "Craig Doyle" also picked Robinson up and carried him around for some reason.

My sources in light entertainment at RTE2 say they have a room there called the "Underestimating the Intelligence of the General Public Department". They miss the now defunct "Making a Quality Programme You'd Deign to Watch Yourself Department" and spend their days sorrowfully making "Craig Doyles" out of play-dough and Action Man heads.

Elsewhere others were also wallowing in nostalgia. The first British Empire began in India with a vanguard of charming salesmen (the military came later). If there's a second British Empire it may begin with Jeremy Paxman. In the opening shots of Empire, Paxman bestrode a large map of the world etched in sand on an Indian beach. Then he wandered from India to Egypt to Israel outlining a succession of colonial atrocities before counter-intuitively suggesting to locals that the Empire wasn't all bad.

He was inappropriately bullish about this. His whole demeanour suggested that he thought it fruitless to argue, Holy Grail style, over who killed who, and expected an invitation back at any moment. In Egypt, the balance sheet read: Debit -- a half century of bloody repression; Credit -- cricket. He seemed to think that the fact locals still played the latter meant they should stop being so damn prickly about the former.

Empire is the newest in a line of historical documentaries that address imperial horrors while clearly longing for imperial power (the worst was Niall Ferguson's Civilization). Empire is good in that it gets most of the facts straight, contains excellent archive footage and has a typically spectacular BBC budget. It's bad in that Paxman's ruddy over-confidence coupled with triumphalist music suggests that he's about to don a pith helmet, hire native bearers and demand to be carted around on a bier.


Paxman mentioned that the British ultimately forwent imperial power for a burgeoning welfare state and comfort at home. The quite good Upstairs Downstairs takes place just before this era at the cusp of World War II. A continuation of the original master/servant drama, it isn't as soapily nostalgic as Downton Abbey, and unlike that show, its characters don't appear to have access to a British history syllabus from later in the century.

Neither do the ethnically diverse, post-Empire residents of Bradford sampled in Make Bradford British, 90pc of whom failed a citizenship test. A demographically representative eight live together Big Brother-style to learn what being British means today (first lesson: being British today means taking part in state-of-the-nation reality television programmes). Rather touchingly, racist attitudes waver as they're faced with some surprising information: most people are quite nice when you get to know them.

Craig Doyle Live HHIII

Empire HHHII

Upstairs Downstairs HHHII

Make Bradford British HHHHI