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Pat Stacey: Summer on RTE -- gloomy with the odd sunny spell

Round about this time every year, all of us wish for the same thing: a decent summer. More often than not, it fails to materialise.

Also round about this time every year, those of us with a vested interested in what's on television wish for something else as well: a decent summer schedule from RTE. More often than not, this also fails to materialise.

It's a little early still to predict what the weather will be like over the next three months, but forecasting the state of RTE's summer season line-up, which was unveiled yesterday, amid the usual blaze of hollow hyperbole, is an easier task. It's going to be mostly gloomy and overcast on TV this summer, with a heavy depression hanging over Montrose, interrupted by occasional sunny spells. So let's seek a bit of pre-emptive consolation in those, shall we?

There will be no less than 10 factual series. Quantity, of course, is one thing; what about quality, though?

Pick of the pack is The Limits of Liberty, a history of 20th century Ireland by reliable Diarmuid Ferriter.

For schadenfreude freaks, The PDs: From Boom to Bust details the rise and collapse of the party that played a large part in the running (into the ground) of the country while holding fewer seats than the average family car.

Sport and documentaries intermingle in Saviours, a feature-length film about three inner-city boxers and This Sporting Life, a six-parter profiling top Irish sports stars, including Christy O'Connor Jnr, Catherina Mc- Kiernan and Tony Cascarino.


These, then, are the sunny interludes.

Enjoy them while they last, because you won't be reaching for the factor 50 to protect you from the dazzle of the rest of RTE's summer fare.

Miriam O'Callaghan will be luxuriating in a sixth season of her soft'n'fluffy Saturday night chat show.

Frankly, the cooing chorus of admiration and wonder that erupts at the mere mention of Ms O'Callaghan's name has become grating and tedious -- particularly since Saturday Night with Miriam adds up to nothing more than an indulgent vanity vehicle for an over-revered current affairs broadcaster to reveal her hidden shallows.

Elsewhere, the summer package is a familiar ragbag of what RTE likes to call "returning favourites".

In normal language, that means repackaged repeats of No Frontiers and Off the Rails, and the umpteenth variation on the dreary National Lottery gameshow -- plus a slew of tedious, sublebrity-heavy, cheap-as-chips lifestyle shows.

In fact, a bag of chips actually plays a starring role in one of them: Take On the Takeaway, which sees celebrity chefs (yawn) trying to outdo the over-the-counter offerings from local eateries.