Monday 20 May 2019

King of daytime TV will reign again

Larissa Nolan

MARTY WHELAN may have been booted out of daytime TV - but now he plans to show RTE bosses just what they're missing.

The king of daytime TV admits he was "angry and sad" to say goodbye to Open House last week after RTE prematurely pulled the plug on the hugely popular show. But in an exclusive interview as the show bows out, he told the Sunday Independent : "I'm laughing in the face of adversity. I've handled this kind of thing before and, by God, I'll handle it again. I'm stronger this time around."

On the axing of the show, Marty says: "Was I pissed off? Yes. Was I angry? Yes. Was I sad? Yes. I was all of those things. But I am not going to go around with a big face on me, or I'm not going to whinge and moan. There's no point in doing that.

"I'm just not that kind of person. Instead, I think: 'I'll show you' and that's what I'll do."

Marty, 48, has a couple if tricks up his sleeve - but unlike his co-presenter Mary Kennedy, who will co-present Nationwide with Michael Ryan, he has nothing official yet and is still considering his options.

Of course, he will still host the lottery show Fame and Fortune in the summer season, a programme that has also been on our screens for six years.

"Ideally I would like to stay in RTE and continue doing what I'm good at, light entertainment. It would be great to host an evening talk show, maybe on a Sunday night after the news. I think that could work well.

"I have confidence in my own talent, I am popular with the public and I'm a good broadcaster."

A call from the UK means that he could be following his personal hero Terry Wogan across the water.

"I have had a call from the UK asking me to do some work there, so I'll have to consider that too," he said.

"But for the next few weeks, I'm just going to relax and think about things, take it easy for a while before I make any decisions."

When it was announced over a month ago that Open House was to be - in tabloidese - "axed", the public outcry was such that it shocked Marty, but he says he also found the reaction gratifying.

Open House ran for six years and regularly brought in a half a million viewers a week, many of whom counted it as part of their daily life.

When RTE said it was not going to be recommissioned, viewers flooded the station with complaints, newspapers started up petitions to keep it running and one caller to the show even broke down crying.

"I could never have imagined the level of reaction, it was overwhelming," said Marty. "We had thousands of letters, emails and calls and everyone from Gay Byrne to Nicky Byrne from Westlife signed the petition.

"It was gratifying for me because it was proof that the show had not yet reached a natural end and it was proof of myself and Mary Kennedy's popularity.

"I still don't know why this decision was taken and I believe it was the wrong call. But I think it simply comes down to the fact that they felt it was time for a change."

He is disappointed that RTE ignored the public feeling and stuck to their guns on the decision.

Said Marty: "They could have done a U-turn if they wanted - they did it a few years back when they decided to get rid of all the weather people and viewers went mad. But they didn't do it for Open House ."

Marty does not know what will replace Open House , which came to an end last Thursday after 747 shows.

"I certainly hope it won't be re-runs of old sitcoms or films," he said. "The whole attraction of Open House was that it was live, current and fresh.

"It was a Tyrone Productions show so maybe RTE just want to take it back inside and make it themselves, with their own people on board."

Of course, it is not the first time the popular broadcaster has hit a difficult patch in his career.

Back in the late Eighties, he got his fingers badly burned after Century - the ill-starred radio station he left RTE to join - went down the tubes.

He bounced back then and he believes he will do the same thing again.

Does he believe that the national broadcaster may still hold a grudge against him for leaving the fold? After all, this is the second blow to Marty in a year - last year, he lost his job as compere of the Rose of Tralee to young gun Ryan Tubridy.

"I think that's a ludicrous suggestion. If so, why would I still be here hosting Fame and Fortune and doing commentary for the Eurovision ? Why would I have been working on Open House for all this time?

"Sure, RTE were very angry with me when I left the station, but it wasn't a case of close the door behind you and never come back. I rejoined RTE over 12 years ago, so that's all water under the bridge." He says that people have been coming up to him asking: "Will you be all right, Marty?"

"They have a strange perception that I'm going to be left destitute," he joked. "I just tell them that I'm available for car washing or window cleaning if they want to hire me."

But behind the jokes, he knows that he will have to make major changes in his life now and as he says, he'll have to "follow the money".

"I have a lovely wife and children to look after and this means that adjustments will have to be made.

"We were planning to do some work on the house and that will have to wait until I have things sorted out properly. But that's the nature of this business so you prepare yourself for these kind of eventualities.

"I am aware of the fall-out. The fact is I won't be here anymore every day and that's a big wake-up call for me."

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