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IT'S not that good to talk

There are some events for which live television was made. World Cups. Wimbledons. Olympic Games. Royal weddings. Moon landings. And, of course, Live Aid, the most-watched global television event of all.

It's inconceivable for someone of my generation to imagine that such happenings wouldn't be filtered through the electronic eyewitness sitting in the corner. Thanks to the advent of 24-hour rolling news channels, it's even possible to witness wars unfolding live from the comfort of your armchair.

Yet I don't think there's another national broadcaster anywhere in the world so singularly committed as RTE is to transmitting live chat shows. Well, except in Italy, maybe. On the few occasions I've seen Italian television -- usually while hanging around a hotel room waiting for everyone else to get ready so we can go out -- it seems to consist largely of programmes featuring bald men with beards and steel-rimmed glasses sitting in a studio, talking interminably.

When The Late Late Show came on air at 11.30 one Saturday night in July, 1962, it went out live, as did many programmes in that era. But as technology improved and the means to record and edit material became cheaper and more flexible, The Late Late remained live, and as far as certain sections of the establishment were concerned, frequently dangerous.

Though the programme is but a shadow of its old self these days its immediacy, that sense that something unexpected could happen at any time (even if it doesn't happen very often) remains its unique selling point.


You can't say the same of The Saturday Night Show or summer slot-filler Saturday Night with Miriam, both of which were pre-recorded in their first two seasons.

There's absolutely no practical reason for either of them to go out live. The second, in particular, would actually benefit from some judicious editing to tighten up the bagginess.

And yet RTE's inexplicable infatuation with live chat shows drags on. This week saw the arrival on RTE2 of Craig Doyle Live, a twice-weekly replacement for The Social, a show so awful even Doyle himself said it was rubbish.

At the time of writing, Thursday's edition hadn't yet aired but if Tuesday's opener is anything to go by, Craig Doyle Live is an improvement on The Social in the same way that a horse breaking one of its legs is an improvement on it breaking both of them. The end result is still lameness.

The irony is that RTE's obsession with live chat shows succeeds only in reminding us how dead its variations on the genre are.

>Not ideal, HOLMES: Sherlock Holmes buffs can be every bit as tediously precious as the permanently infantilised Star Wars fanbase when they want to be. Remember the howls of outrage two years ago when the BBC announced it was updating the great detective to the modern era? The objections melted away, of course, when Sherlock turned out to be brilliant. Prepare for fresh anguish at the news that US television is planning a series called Elementary, set in modern-day New York and starring Jonny Lee Miller (ironically, Dominic Cumberbatch's co-star in a stage version of Frankenstein) as Holmes.

However, the really big news is that Dr Watson will be played by (gasp!) a woman. I've always loved the Holmes stories and I don't have a problem with John Watson morphing into Joan Watson. But did the makers of Elementary really have to cast the awful Lucy Liu, possibly the most irritating actress ever to draw breath, in the role?

>party pooper: There are any number of things I'd rather do than watch television coverage of a Fianna Fail ard fheis. Pull out a tooth with a rusty pliers. Dip my genitals in liquid nitrogen and then repeatedly tap them with a toffee hammer. Watch a boxset of Mattie.

Okay, that last one is going too far, but you get my drift. Still, it might be fun to tune in to RTE1 today or tomorrow to see the Soldiers of Destiny tearing lumps out of one another in the RDS over O Cuivgate. Aside from Gaelic games, there's not nearly enough bloodsport on telly.