RTE rates quantity over quality with spring schedule

by John Boland

IN a press release announcing its spring schedule, and with January not yet gone, RTE declares itself delighted by what it has already been offering us this year, starting with ‘The School’, a series which apparently has been “critically acclaimed”.

Well, not by me, it wasn’t — I thought it personally invasive, ethically suspect and essentially phoney. But what really excites RTE about the series is that it won an average audience of over 460,000 — more than Katherine Lynch’s ‘Single Ladies’, which attracted 330,000 viewers, but less than ‘Dealers’ (470,000); ‘Operation Transformation’ (512,000); ‘No Frontiers’ (590,000); and ‘Fair City’ (“a phenomenal 700,000”).

“We’ve attracted more than a third of all viewers to our channels,” its TV managing director Noel Curran boasts, though he and I know that high ratings have seldom anything to do with quality.

Alas, no such pleasures await RTE viewers in the coming three months, when the emphasis will firmly be on revamps of past series and rehashings of foreign formulas. ‘Teens in the Wild’, for instance, will feature a group of girls rather than boys, but that will be the only difference, while ‘An Cor’ looks as if it will be a straight lift of BBC1’s ‘The Choir’, even if as Gaeilge. And ‘Dragons’ Den’ returns, faithfully aping the BBC original.

The main political series will be a two-parter on the PDs, which, the press release informs us, will document the PDs from their formation to their “present dwindling fortunes”. Dwindling? They were dissolved months ago.

‘Arts Lives’, one of RTE’s best strands, returns with profiles of painter Sean Scully, singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan and crime writer John Connolly, but “lifestyle” programming (whatever that means) has a jaded look about it, unless you simply can’t get enough of ‘Off the Rails’, ‘The Restaurant’ and ‘Health of the Nation’.

Finally, RTE threatens us with yet another chat show — this at a time when over in the US Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien have been leaking viewers.

Next Saturday we’re promised ‘The Saturday Night Show’, hosted by Brendan O’Connor, while in April we’ll be getting yet another gabfest, that one to be presented by Craig Doyle.

Its title has yet to be confirmed — how about ‘And the Bland Played On’?

Previous post:

Next post: