Following last Friday’s Late Late Show, The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle wonders if it’s time for RTE to put the programme out of its misery…
Why, you wonder, do we pay our licence fee? For drama, comedy, entertaining programmes? Let’s not go there. We are talking about RTE, after all. We do expect, however, a degree of decent news coverage.
As Prime Time did not deal at all with the Savita Halappanavar case, it was left to the bastion of old Ireland, the world’s longest-running chatshow, to try and debate the abortion issue. Yes, it’s The Late Late Show.
First off, it is not the 1980s and Ryan Tubridy is not Gay Byrne. The chat show has changed. The American model of having a popular comedian host a gallery of stars from the world of entertainment has crossed the Atlantic, which is why Graham Norton, Alan Carr and so on rake in the ratings. Human interest in chat shows, unless it’s of the Oprah variety and strictly non-political, has gone by the wayside.
How much of Gay Byrne’s influence on Ireland was down to his own personal appeal? That he, and only he, could get away with such controversies as ‘The Bishop and the Nightie’ incident? Ireland has changed. We have a greater space for debate on ‘morality’ issues, and besides, most sane people realise that matters of “personal morality” are just that, personal.
Friday night’s Late Late was, or should be, the end of the programme trying to make an impact on politics. If you were lucky enough to be out enjoying a few sociables on Friday, as I dearly wish I had been, here’s what happened.
Firstly, RTE broadcast a pre-recorded, fifteen-minute interview with Twink. The reaction in the Twittersphere was harsh enough, but some of it was deserved. Whatever the reality of her situation, Ms King (forgive me if I don’t use her nickname, I just think it’s a bit undignified for a woman in her 60s) has shown a stunning lack of self-awareness in the last couple of years. She is not the first woman to have been cheated on and she sure as hell won’t be the last. Her constant stream of bitterness about her ex-husband and his child is unbecoming to say the least. It must also be painful and embarrassing for her daughters, as well as his new child.
The reason I bring Twink up is this. On a week in November 2012, when Irish people are dreading the budget, struggling to put food on the table, and furious about the preventable death of a woman in one of our hospitals, RTE thought that we hadn’t had enough of the woman who embarrassed herself so spectacularly on the same programme just five months ago.
Another misjudgment of similarly epic proportions came later in the programme. Just before a panel debated whether failure on the part of the Irish politicians led to the needless death of a woman, TDs and Senators were wheeled out to model the latest fashions.
Other guests were worthy of inclusion; young Aspergers syndrome sufferer Adam Harris and charity campaigner Oliver Williams were articulate and interesting guests. Neither topic was exactly light-hearted however, and this was not a chat show as popularly understood.
I won’t get into the debate itself as I believe the pro-life panellists came across very badly and Ryan Tubridy actually did an admirable job of hosting. Time was against him however, and why was this? Because almost half an hour had been shaved off the debate by Twink and a couple of politicians pretending to be models.
Audience participation, something that has led to passionate speech and debate in the past, had to be limited to a single opinion from both sides. Disgracefully, a leading member of Youth Defence was chosen for the pro-life side. So much for audience participation, and so much for the views of ordinary Irish people.
Despite all the abuse he gets, Ryan Tubridy is a good broadcaster and this article is not an attack on him. His Full Irish breakfast show was one of the most entertaining on Irish radio. However, it is clear that the falling ratings of his radio show on Radio 1- which I suspect is due to many Gerry Ryan devotees returning to local radio- and the flak he gets about the Late Late Show have taken its toll on his confidence. He attempted to put his own stamp on the programme, but the calibre of guests has declined, and he seems to have been badly served by RTE.
Perhaps, like some other former pillars of Irish society, The Late Late has had its day.