Recession leaves its mark on RTÉ schedule

Fri, Aug 14, 2009, 01:00

THE RECESSION has left its fingerprints all over RTÉ’s new season of programming with shows on cutting living expenses, dealing with the sheriff and surviving the economic downturn.

A one-off Pure Mulespecial returns to the midlands to see how characters are coping with the recession and even Podge and Rodge are affected by the downturn, as Ballydung Manor has been repossessed and they move to the Stickit Inn.

Despite the “difficult commercial circumstances” faced by the public broadcaster, RTÉ Television’s managing director Noel Curran said the autumn schedule was “as strong as any schedule that RTÉ has launched in recent years”. More than 55 new home-produced series and documentaries will be aired in the coming months while more than 45 home-produced series will return.

Steve Carson, RTÉ’s director of programming, said savings of seven to 10 per cent were shaved off budgets in every production to protect home programmes. Savings were made in areas such as not allowing filming days to run over, using hire cars instead of paying mileage and changing production models.

He said RTÉ was operating in a very competitive environment with a fraction of the budgets of broadcasters such as the BBC. He rejected claims that RTÉ broadcasted too many repeats and said repeat programmes accounted for 8.2 per cent of programmes during peak times. This was lower than BBC 1’s rate of repeats at peak times. “People forget we have less than 10 per cent of the BBC’s income,” Mr Carson said.

One of next month’s most keenly anticipated programmes will be The Late Late Show with new presenter Ryan Tubridy.

The 36-year-old presenter said he was “a nervous wreck” and was having “very peculiar dreams” about presenting the show in its 37th year.

He said the concept of having “one for everyone in the audience” would be brought back but the signature tune would be different. The show will have a house band which will include members of the Camembert Quartet. The owl, which had featured in the opening credits, has survived the changes.

The show will be sponsored by businessman Seán Quinn who has been in the headlines because of his links with Anglo Irish Bank. Carson said there would be no conflict of interest in the show’s coverage of business and banking matters and there were “very clear demarcations between programme content and sponsorship”.

The Late Late’sformer presenter Pat Kenny will begin presenting Frontlineon September 28th, which replaces Questions and Answers.

Curran said the format would differ from Questions and Answersin that there would not always be a panel and some programmes would focus on single events rather than several issues. “What RTÉ would hope to get out of it is that people would be surprised by it,” he said.

Other new shows include Addicted to Money, a three-part series presented by David McWilliams which provides a global overview of the economic downturn.

If Lynch Had Invaded explores what might have happened in August 1969 if the Irish Army had crossed the Border following the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland.

Marian Finucane will return to television with Does God Hate. . ? – a four-part series which promises lively discussions on issues such as sex, women and science.

Victoria and Shane’s Gardenpromises to take an entertaining look at what happens when Victoria Mary Clarke tries to get her husband, singer Shane McGowan, to live the good life by growing their own food. Comedy will also feature in Ardal O’Hanlon’s new show Val Falvey TD, in which he plays a hapless rural deputy.

In drama, Irish American actor Aidan Quinn will feature in Billy Roche and Conor McPherson’s The Eclipse, a supernatural love story.

A new two-part series Killerswill profile the murders of Rachel O’Reilly and Fareh Swaleh Noor.

Sports coverage will include the World Cup qualifiers, international rugby and documentaries on the GAA’s Liam Mulvihill and trainer Vincent O’Brien.

Coming soon . . .

The four-part series Stone Cold Soberwill follow six friends from Tullow, Co Carlow, who give up alcohol for six months to discover what being on the dry is all about.

Foodies will have their tastebuds tickled with three new cookery shows: Catherine’s Italian Kitchen, Trish’s French Country Kitchenand Rachel Allen: Home Cooking; while Corrigan’s City Farmand the The Restaurantcontinue their runs.

The Rawdrama series returns to show the closed restaurant reopening with its new owner (Aisling O’Sullivan from The Clinic) and re-hiring many familiar faces.

The Clinicreturns for a seventh series and finds Dan (Dominic Mafham) facing a medical council tribunal.

The All-Ireland Talent Showwill return with presenter Gráinne Seoige at the helm.

Nurse Jackie is a new US comedy/drama starring Edie Falco of The Sopranos as a strong-willed nurse with a ragged personal life.

Expectations of The Good Wifeseries will be high, with executive producers such as Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and David Zucker. It stars Julianna Margulies as a defence attorney returning to work after her husband is embroiled in a sex and corruption scandal.

US hits such as Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, CSIand The Mentalistwill all return in the new season.

One Weekend in September will give a behind-the-scenes view of All-Ireland day at Croke Park.