“Light factual” bites for RTÉ Two
Popular documentary strand begins with ‘Nightshift’ and ‘Oi Ginger!’
Angela Scanlon: exploring myths of red hair gene
RTÉ Two’s eight-part “popular documentary” strand Reality Bites returns tonight with Nightshift, a snapshot of the “peculiar, quirky, upside-down world” of night workers and continues next week with Oi Ginger!, fashion journalist and stylist Angela Scanlon’s exploration of the myths of the red hair gene.
“Grabby content, grabby titles, but public service broadcasting at its core,” is how RTÉ Two channel controller Bill Malone describes the “light factual” series. Reality Bites, according to the publicity blurb, intends to portray “a non-judgemental slice of Irish life”. More prosaically, from RTÉ’s point of view it also provides one-off screen tests for a fresh generation of presenters who can connect to the channel’s core audience demographic of under-35s.
Maia Dunphy, whose diverting What Women Want four-parter has just vacated the same Thursday 9.55pm slot, is a veteran of the Reality Bites strand, while RTÉ is also keen to find vehicles for Scanlon, who last year acted as one of the “life coaches” on The Love Clinic, a pilot made by independent producers Straywave under the Format Farm initiative. Dunphy has said that RTÉ executives do check how shows are received on social media as well as looking at viewer ratings.
But Malone also has a longer-term valuation method in mind: He wants Reality Bites to pass what he calls “the Reeling in the Years test” of public service broadcasting. In other words, it should yield footage that if later edited into a Reeling in 2013-style programme would reflect the here-and-now of modern Irish life. “It’s a window and a snapshot – warts-and-all, non-judgmental – into what Ireland is like.”