Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Friends in the north put it up to national broadcaster

Watching So Hard To Beat, it was startling to realise just how rare quality music TV shows like this have become on our TV screens. In fact, it’s hard to remember any other music shows in recent years which could …

Fri, Apr 6, 2007, 10:02

   

Watching So Hard To Beat, it was startling to realise just how rare quality music TV shows like this have become on our TV screens. In fact, it’s hard to remember any other music shows in recent years which could rival the knowledge, enthusiasm and thoroughness of Stuart Bailie’s two-part BBC documentary on Northern Irish music’s many twists and turns.

This was a yarn and a half which veteran journalist and broadcaster Bailie drew out with great skill and passion in his role as writer and narrator. While many will have tuned in to hear what Van Morrison had to say for himself in his first TV interview in an age, Bailie’s documentary also rewarded viewers with insightful interviews and performances from many others.

Tim Wheeler talked about how listening to “Astral Weeks” helped cure homesickness while he was on tour, Portstewart’s Henry McCullough recalled his Woodstock experiences and Snow Patrols Gary Lightbody was his usual enthusiastic self. At every turn, there was much great music to be heard, turning the documentary into a joyous TV jukebox of tunes.

Should RTE have any sense, they would purchase So Hard To Beat and screen it right away. It might go some way to make up for the appalling lack of quality music shows of late on the national broadcaster’s channels.

It would also, though, highlight the meagre fare they have foisted on their audiences in recent times. While RTE will point to the likes of You’re A Star and Other Voices as proof of their commitment to music shows, the truth is that Irish music TV has become a shoddy, shabby corner of the schedules.

That a show like Other Voices is tucked away into the wee small hours, for instance, is another exasperating example of RTE’s sure-it-will-do attitude to music TV. They obviously still believe that music TV shows are a late-night affair.

The rap for this fiasco lies solely with the station’s commissioning editors. They are the ones who have elevated an obsession with audience interaction, text polls and pointless add-ons above quality content and have succeeded in turning music broadcasting in this country into music narrowcasting.

A show like So Hard To Beat on RTE as it currently stands? Not in a million years. Unless, of course, it came with text voting.

(You can see extracts from So Hard To Beat here)