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Pat Stacey: Ray D'Arcy needs TV more than TV needs D'Arcy


Ray D'arcy in the studio. Photo: Damien Eagers

Ray D'arcy in the studio. Photo: Damien Eagers

Ray D'arcy in the studio. Photo: Damien Eagers

THIS column, as you may have noticed, is about television and not radio. Nonetheless, the two are so closely intertwined in this country, with many broadcasters double-jobbing, that Ray D’Arcy’s surprise defection from Today FM to RTE at the weekend is noteworthy.

D’Arcy is reportedly being paid €500,000 a year – a figure that’s sure to reignite the arguments about RTE presenters’ high salaries – in a deal that will see him doing both radio and TV work.

Let’s not dwell here on whether taking over the RTE Radio 1 afternoon slot currently occupied by Derek Mooney, whose audience is very different from the one the preternaturally youthful-looking (for a 50-year-old) D’Arcy is leaving behind, is a wise move or not. Who needs wisdom anyway when you’re pocketing half a million smackers a year?

The more intriguing aspect of the D’Arcy move is how the promised television work is going to fit into the bigger picture. It’s a strange one, this.

Whatever you feel about D’Arcy as a radio show host, and personally I find his occasional outbursts of glib self-righteousness irritating – his silly threat (as if anyone cared) to quit Ireland in 2011 if Enda Kenny became Taoiseach, for instance, or his overwrought questioning of mixed martial artist Cathal Pendred back in July – it’s what he’s good at. Television? Maybe less so.

D’Arcy’s television career hasn’t been a disaster; it’s been too innocuous for that. Having cut his teeth on young people’s shows like Jo Maxi, he thrived in his eight years on The Den, which had enough cheeky crossover humour to keep adults as well as children engaged. Then again, with Zig, Zag and Dustin on your team, you can’t really go wrong.

He did a good job, too, as host of the fondly remembered, and unfairly cancelled, schools quiz Blackboard Jungle.

But apart from presenting the dismal You’re a Star for a time and doing one-offs on shows like The Panel, Celebrity Banisteoir and the Test the Nation franchise, what else has there been?

You could count the five years D’Arcy spent hosting The Rose of Tralee – but only if you’re prepared to accept that it’s legitimate television. I don’t. It’s nothing more than a glorified tourism marketing plug and whether it’s D’Arcy or someone else wearing the tux, it has more in common with a corporate engagement than with a regular presenting job.

It should be interesting to see what kind of TV work D’Arcy, who takes up his new radio show in February, has in mind, and what kind of work RTE has in mind for him.

Maybe he fancies having his own chat show. Plenty of RTE personalities have wanted one of those and quite a few over the years have had their wishes granted. But whether it’s Craig Doyle or Miriam O’Callaghan, the results have been overwhelmingly mediocre.

Perhaps he has his eye on The Late Late Show if Ryan Tubridy ever decides to make a permanent move to BBC Radio, where he’s done plenty of summer-cover work. On the other hand, given the abuse Tubridy and Pat Kenny before him have received in the past, would D’Arcy, who said he had no interest in the job the last time it was available, really want that ancient albatross hanging around his neck?

Fronting something like The Voice of

Ireland would be a sideways step at best. Who knows, maybe he and RTE already have something cooked up between them. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that D’Arcy might need TV more than TV needs him.