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The final demise of the chat show

THE word emanating from the BBC is that The Michael McIntyre Chat Show won't be returning for a second series. Few will be surprised. It was every bit as poor as its falling ratings – 2.41m viewers for the first show, down to 1.77m by last Monday's third – suggest. McIntyre, who reportedly received a juicy £500,000 (€604,000) for doing it, seemed to cop on pretty quickly that things were heading south.

The comedian was this week said to be "uncomfortable" being in the interviewer's chair.


Not even a hasty revamp for the third show, which saw a sharp shift away from chat to larking about with the guests and the studio audience, could reverse the decline.

The rather unadventurous choice of guests certainly hasn't helped. Many of them – Alan Sugar, Terry Wogan, Jeremy Clarkson, David Jason, Joanna Lumley – are semi-permanent fixtures on television already and gave the show a tired, middle-aged feel.

The line-up for next week's edition is no better: Gary Barlow, Bear Grylls and Nigella Lawson.

The bigger point here is that the chat show as we used to know it is, sadly, a spent force.

The days when Michael Parkinson – or for that matter Gay Byrne in the golden age of The Late Late Show – could attract A-list guests (long before the term A-list even existed) who would just sit down and talk, are long gone.

When A-listers do consent to turn up, it's usually because they have something to sell, and with the proviso that they won't answer any tricky personal questions.

Even Parkinson's current Sky Arts 1 series, Parkinson Masterclass, features either celebrities we've seen countless times before (Eddie Izzard, for example) or ones you wouldn't mind never seeing (the vapid Jamie Cullum).

The only chat show host bucking the trend is Graham Norton, who possesses the charm and skill to turn his Friday night programme into a kind of televised party, where even the biggest star names are effortlessly persuaded to let their guard down and join in the foolish fun.


It's a talent and nobody else in television, least of all Norton's predecessor in the slot, Jonathan Ross (who's looking increasingly lost on ITV), currently possesses.

But as long there's some stand-up willing to step out of their comfort zone and jump back into it when things don't work out, half-a-million quid richer after their mild bruising, television will just keep banging its head against the chat show wall.

Lack of laughs: Television critics aren't the only people taking the hatchet to RTE2's woeful new mockumentary The Centre, starring, among other guilty parties, Yasmine Akram (pictured).

The Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) has complained to RTE about the mocking portrayal of a transgender woman called Nuala, played by Gary Cooke.

"The Centre is a throwback to the dark ages of television and RTE should know better," the organisation's chief executive Broden Giambrone wrote. "Nuala is the stock character of a 'man in a dress' played for cheap laughs."

No argument with the "cheap" part, but I'd question the "laughs" bit. I've had more laughs while scouring soap scum off the shower tray.

At the time of writing, RTE had received 24 complaints about the programme. A modest figure, to be sure, and hopefully one reflective of the number of people watching this reeking great turd.

I have a feeling this story will run and run. Unfortunately, so will The Centre – for another five painful Mondays.

Winning formula: I was moaning recently about how Irish television has never been adept at making good quiz shows, exceptions like Blackboard Jungle aside.

RTE was probably the only broadcaster in the world to balls up Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, which was blighted by question-setting blunders, before the inability to find a sponsor sank it.

TV3's Deal or No Deal, hosted by Keith Barry, was a cheap-looking, pared-down version of the original, while the less said about RTE's insanely convoluted Where in the World? and the dreary Murphy's Micro Quiz-M (still the only known sighting of tumbleweeds rolling across a studio floor) the better.

It's nice, then, to see TV3 hit the target with Crossfire, which began last night.

The concept is crisp, clever and has echoes of two of television's best quiz shows, Fifteen to One and Pointless: contestants push points they've won onto their opponents and the one who finishes with the fewest wins the round.

Crossfire could probably do with letting host Sean Moncrieff, the wittiest man on Irish radio, off the leash to improvise a little. Then again, it's a tight, fast-moving show, so he has a lot to get through in a half-hour. A winner, by the looks of it.

Woeful waxwork: Is this (above) the worst TV celebrity waxwork in history? It's supposed to be Liz Dawn as Vera Duckworth from Coronation Street.

Personally, I think it looks more like Barbara Windsor doing an impression of The Joker from Batman. Mind you, it's probably a better actress than Windsor ever was.