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Pat Stacey: The Talent Show was just embarrassing -- let's hope The Voice hits a high note

SO RTE has finally seen the light and axed The All Ireland Talent Show.

If you're a regular Herald reader, of course, you'll have been aware of the news since last week, as my colleague Melanie Finn was the first to break it.

Curiously, this didn't prevent a certain Murdoch-owned paper from splashing this supposed scoop across its front page yesterday, as if it had just discovered the most intimate musings of Rebekah Brooks' secret diary.

But never mind that.

The important thing is that it's farewell and adieu and don't let the studio door hit you on the arse on the way out to possibly the worst talent show RTE has ever made.

The series' Sunday evening slot will this autumn be filled by a home-grown version of American show The Voice.

This has proved a successful franchise in other European countries and is likely to be replicated by the BBC as well.



tedious

As far as some of us are concerned, this is great news. The astonishing thing is that RTE took so long to get rid of The All Ireland Talent Show.

The decision was apparently made after extensive research showed that the format was out-of-date.

Frankly, I and a lot of other viewers could have told you this after the first episode of the first series, without needing to take the time, trouble or expense of carrying out a survey.

The All Ireland Talent Show was terrible: an embarrassing cavalcade of tedious trad bands, dancing dogs, hula hoop-spinning gymnasts, annoyingly precocious junior Irish dancers, mediocre magicians and allegedly cute child singers.

It was all just a few notches above the kind of stuff you find in parish hall shows the length and breadth of rural Ireland.

The voting system was parochial, while the judging panel was made up of the usual RTE faces: John Creedon, Daithi O Se and the ubiquitous Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh, supplemented by the grating Dana and a certain Amanda Brunker.

The show's fans, of course, will protest that the series drew a weekly audience of 800,000 and therefore qualifies as a success. But I suspect this audience was overwhelmingly rural and made up primarily of viewers who tuned in to support and vote for "one of their own", which is hardly representative.

And before anyone accuses me of being anti-rural, I'm a Dubliner living (quite happily) in Wexford, where you couldn't turn a corner last year without encountering a poster urging support for Daniel Furlong, the third series' winner.

Replacing The All Ireland Talent Show with The Voice -- a singing competition that, unlike X Factor, concentrates on pure singing ability rather than weepy backstories involving personal struggles and dead grannies -- is a great move.

Whether or not you're a fan of talent shows (and I'm not), at least it's a modern concept with the potential to appeal to viewers in all age ranges. Yet it's impossible to ignore the peculiar little sideshow that's been unfolding alongside all this: namely, what is to become of Grainne Seoige?

With The All Ireland Show axed, some in RTE are said to be concerned that Seoige has been left with no presenting gig at the station.

RTE TV boss Steve Carson has spoken of the need to freshen up the output -- which presumably includes freshening up the presenting faces as well.

Meanwhile, Larry Bass, head of Screentime Shinawill, the independent company that will be producing The Voice, merely says that someone like Seoige would certainly be "in the frame", while emphasising the fact that The Voice will be looking to recruit big national and international names as presenters and coaches.

It's possible that Seoige, whose future with ITV's ailing Daybreak breakfast show is apparently also looking shaky, could get the gig as we report elsewhere today. Possibly, it's being suggested, alongside bland Brian Ormond, who RTE seems to be trying to mould into its own version of Dermot O'Leary.

But if she doesn't, why should viewers care? RTE seems to be in the habit of hiring what it regards as big-name presenters and then shoehorning them into the nearest project.

It's a ridiculous policy, as is the proliferation of abysmal, vanity-project chat shows on RTE1 in recent times.

The broadcaster's remit is to provide the best entertainment it can for the licence-paying viewers, not a career safety net for its pampered talent. Let's hope The Voice is a step in that direction.


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