Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

There must be a better way to cover the arts on TV

I watched The View last night. Yes readers, I did and you poor saps are going to have to put up with me dissecting the show for the next few paragraphs. It’s a strange beast, the TV arts show. In …

Wed, Sep 12, 2007, 14:32


I watched The View last night. Yes readers, I did and you poor saps are going to have to put up with me dissecting the show for the next few paragraphs.

It’s a strange beast, the TV arts show. In the 1990s, RTE ran a show called Black Box and, really, there’s not much difference between it and The View. The presenter? Glenn Patterson, a writer from up north who looked good in a sharp suit. The talking heads? Three people who talked very seriously about the arts, smiled nervously, nodded a lot and occasionally gestured wildly with their hands. The set? A big desk for the books, over-designed chairs and lots of modern art-like shapes in the background. The topics? Books, films, theatre, opera, TV, ballet and ice-hockey. No, hold on, not ice-hockey. Ice cream, maybe? Ice T?

Anway, the point is if you close your eyes, there are zilch differences between the show which ran over 10 years ago and the show which is currently going out at stupid o’clock on a Tuesday night. The names have changed, but the format remains the same.

And there’s the nub of the problem. The format. It’s so DULL. Really, really dreary. It makes arts, culture and entertainment look and sound about as exciting as Oireachtas Report. There is no sense that the content which drives the show is in any way smart or sassy or interesting. There’s no effort to update the format, to shake things up, to approach the topics in a new or interesting way.

You really can predict how each topic will run. (1) Intro from presenter (2) Guest number one talks a bit, makes a bit of sense (3) Presenter asks question intended to move debate on (4) Guest 2 talks and ignores question (5) Cut to presenter asking another meaningful question (6) Guest 3 gives his or her take which is usually the same as guest 1 and/or guest 2. Guest 3 also ignores question. (7) Back to presenter who raises eyebrows (8) Guest 2 makes another point which rambles on a bit (9) Presenter makes smart comment and tries to end the debate (10) Cut to guest 1 giggling, guest 3 frowning and guest 2 yawning (11) Presenter moves to next topic.

It’s not the fault of the presenter (John Kelly does a fine job) or the guests (though Liz O’Donnell was caught once or twice off-camera with a look on her face which suggested that she’d probably prefer Oireachtas Report). The format needs to be chopped and changed and brought kicking, screaming and shouting into the 21st century. Then again, the fact that RTE continue to consign their arts and culture coverage to the wee small hours says all there has to be said about the chances of that happening.

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