Like many other sports fans I am a big admirer of much of the material produced in the RTE sports department on both TV and radio. Programmes on television like The Sunday Game, The Premiership, coverage of the rugby championship, the Olympics, World Cups, and the like are usually very professionally done and provide a lot of quality entertainment. My licence fee goes out by standing order every August and I have no real gripe with the television directors/producers who earn their crust out in Montrose. They do their job, and many of them do it very well. In our household we are becoming more radio than TV people anyway — old age and trying to set a good example to the children are taking their toll; I find myself listening to Morning Ireland and Drive Time much more now, sitting in traffic, keeping up to date with all the inward bound cut-backs, pay-cuts, or independent TD allowances that are indeed “entitlements” for the chosen few. Heaven.
Ideally I would prefer to keep a positive seam in this column and I’d like to point out that I think that Pat Kenny is a superb radio interviewer and presenter, but Jumping Jack Flash, do I find him hard to take on the Late Late Show, (I did say ideally ). He is just so leaden and it all seems such hard work that it makes me feel uncomfortable. I find myself switching channels just to stop myself cringing on his behalf. However, even that constant viewpoint did not prepare me for the dreadful and abysmal effort that was trotted out last Friday night as a so-called celebration of the GAA’s 125 years. It was a shocker. A genuine shocker.
So much of the show lacked élan and panache that it became very difficult to stop switching the bloody thing off. Nevertheless, like a committed sleep-walk, I just ploughed on until the death, hoping that salvation would come from somewhere. It did not. Kenny as anchor neither knew his subject nor his audience. And he lacked the capacity to engage in conversation or banter with many (any ) of his ‘guests’ — apart from a few high profile Kerry and Dublin footballers from the 1970s.
It was impossible not to laugh or squirm (your choice ) when Brush Shiels (what was he doing there? ) spoke about floating on air when he performed to a full house in Croke Park. Shiels described being weightless as he ran around the packed stadium, and Pat retorted by saying he too felt that way once — wait for it — when he passed an exam he had not expected to pass. Oh my god man! Just let it go.
Another major faux-pas is that there is no new material to be got from chatting to the likes of Paidi Ó Sé, Mick O’Dwyer, Kevin Heffernan, Jimmy Keavney, and Jack O’Shea at this juncture. It has all been said. And their anecdotes are dated and stale. And let’s be honest here, the whole goddamn show just seemed to be one big Kerry/Dublin love-in.
There was practically no mention of hurling, despite Henry Shefflin having flown half way around the world to be back for the show. Where was Brian Cody? The Connollys? DJ Carey? Jimmy Barry Murphy? Of course the west of Ireland got a really short shift. Did the producers never hear of the Galway three-in-a-row team of the 1960s, the Roscommon team of 1942 and 1943, or the Mayo team of ’50 and ’51? Why was there not a feature on any of the clubs in the country? Did their target audience consist of only Dublin and Kerry people?
Of course the choice of show for the subject matter was absolutely incorrect.
Pat Kenny and the Late Late are one in the same, so one could argue that Pat Kenny isn’t the issue but that the Late Late should never have been used as the platform on which the GAA was to be celebrated.
That was a crazy decision in the first instance, albeit a cost effective one. Fill up studio one with greats and former greats and give a few of them an opportunity to be nostalgic (again ) and Bob’s your uncle. No expensive outside broadcasts, no innovative features on contemporary Gaelic games. No vision, little entertainment value. The whole thing went down like a lead balloon.
To prove my point: The difference that Dessie Cahill made when he arrived on set was amazing. All of a sudden the mood in the audience picked up and he started — how sad is this for a presenter? — pointing out members in the crowd who should be spoken to like Peter Quinn and Conor O’Shea.
RTE should have called in producers like Paul Byrnes and Bill Lawlor from the Sunday Game team and given them a good budget and let them use their knowledge and expertise to come up with a specific show for the 125 year celebration. It was a glorious opportunity for the national station and the GAA to have worked in tandem to produce a show that everyone would have been proud of. Instead, you had a mongrel of a show that just sickened the majority of GAA people.
If you think I am alone in my views, check out the online survey in one of the best GAA sites in the country, Anfearrua.com, where nearly 70 per cent of respondents thought the show was awful. Or if you have a few free hours check out another GAA site — gaaboard.com — where they have a television review thread on the show that goes on for almost 30 pages. Most of the commentary is again negative and that’s a real pity. Celebrations are, after all, meant to be fun.