RTÉ new season: Bertie Ahern, Amy Huberman and Brendan O’Carroll

Broadcaster’s television line-up promises to show ‘all sides of Irish life’

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is set to return to the public eye on RTÉ screens over the coming year when he traces his family roots on genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?

Amy Huberman, Sharon Horgan and Brian Gleeson will be among the acting talent featured by the broadcaster, while there will be new shows for Brendan O'Carroll, Marty Morrissey, Daniel O'Donnell and Vogue Williams, among other familiar faces.

The Late Late Show will travel to London for a one-off in October to celebrate "the unique relationship" between Ireland and Britain.

RTÉ launched its new season of television programming from its Montrose campus in Dublin on Thursday afternoon, with director-general Dee Forbes and host Jennifer Zamparelli overseeing a presentation of the line-up for RTÉ One, RTÉ2 and the soon-to-be-upgraded RTÉ Player.


Ms Forbes said RTÉ’s output showcased “an ever-broadening range of perspectives with new voices, new faces and new themes” on air, exploring “all sides of Irish life, past and present”.

Factual programming includes The Rotunda, a documentary about the Dublin maternity hospital, and Our Lives in Property: Oxmantown Road, which explores the impact of boom-and-bust cycle in the property market.

Other documentary highlights include a programme following Irish campaigner and journalist Orla Tinsley as she awaits a double lung transplant in New York and Philly McMahon: The Hardest Hit, in which the Dublin footballer examines drug use in Ireland.

On a lighter note, Dermot Bannon visits "jaw-dropping" houses around the world in Dermot Bannon's Homes, Yasmine Akram will check into lavish holiday properties in Billionaire BnBs, and Daniel and Majella O'Donnell will be going west for Daniel and Majella's USA Road Trip.

Sports documentaries include Katie, following champion boxer Katie Taylor, and 1982: Prayers of the Faithful, which retells the story of Offaly's All-Ireland football title win.

RTÉ's drama and comedy line-up for the months ahead, which has all been previously announced, is headed by the flagship production Resistance.

January drama

Gleeson will head the cast of this five-part dramatisation of the build-up and fallout from the events of Bloody Sunday in 1920. The follow-up to the 1916-themed Rebellion, in which Gleeson also appeared, will be shown from January 6th.

Before then, RTÉ's big drama hope for November and December will be Taken Down, a six-part crime series from the makers of Love/Hate and novelist Jo Spain.

Revolving around an investigation into the death of a young Nigerian migrant found near a direct provision centre, the drama promises to take viewers into “a twilight world of the new Ireland” with a cast featuring French actor Aïssa Maïga, Lynn Rafferty, Orla Fitzgerald and Brian Gleeson.

RTÉ will also show the BBC-commissioned one-off dramas Mother's Day and Doing Money, as well as the three-part adaptation of the Eugene McCabe novel Death and Nightingales with Ann Skelly, Matthew Rhys and Jamie Dornan.

Huberman leads the comedy charge with Finding Joy, the six-part series she wrote and is also starring in alongside Aisling Bea and Laura Whitmore. Huberman plays Joy, a woman who "looks for happiness in all the wrong places" after a relationship break-up.

RTÉ2 will be the home for Women on the Verge, a six-part comedy drama made by Catastrophe co-creator Sharon Horgan's company Merman in a co-production between RTÉ and British television company UKTV.

The Dublin-set series, based on Lorna Martin's book Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, stars Kerry Condon, Nina Sosanya and Eileen Walsh as well as Horgan.

Comedy and chat

After a successful debut earlier this year, the second series of The Young Offenders is also on its way. The acclaimed Cork comedy, written by Peter Foott, was commissioned by the BBC and co-produced by RTÉ.

Puppets Podge and Rodge are making a comeback with new co-host Doireann Garrihy, while 1980s-themed comedy Bridget & Eamon has reached its fourth series.

Fans of chat shows will not be deprived in the new schedule, with Friday night staple The Late Late Show joined by The Ray D'Arcy Show and All Round to Mrs Brown's for Saturday nights. As well as his current new interview series, Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge will also return, as will The Tommy Tiernan Show.

Mrs Brown's Boys' Brendan O'Carroll will also feature in Brendan O'Carroll's Britain (working title), while Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea will, like the O'Donnells, hit the road in the Marty and Bernard's Road Trip (also a working title).

Vogue Williams will have three new programmes about social media and modern relationships in Vogue, and Baz Ashmawy "plays wingman" in Wingman.

Celebrity contest Dancing with the Stars and reality series Ireland's Fittest Family will be back, and there will be a twelfth run of weight-loss programme Operation Transformation. There will also be a fourth series of First Dates, a key show for RTÉ2, the channel that targets what has at times been an elusive younger audience.

Financial strains

RTÉ has been financially strained over the past decade in a turbulent period for television advertising and it has warned that its current will have an impact on content. Excluding the impact of its gain from selling almost nine acres of land at Montrose, RTÉ recorded an operational deficit of €6.4 million in 2017, its annual report shows, while it recorded deficits in six of the eight years before 2017.

It received €186 million from the licence fee last year and collected €151.5 million in commercial income.

However, Ms Forbes has warned the Government that RTÉ won’t have enough money to fulfil its public service remit in future unless it can be given some assurances on its future public funding.

The director-general told the Dáil’s public accounts committee in May that it was “a worry” that much Irish creative talent was obliged to find work in Britain because “they do not have jobs at home”.

Ms Forbes today described the blend of in-house and commissioned programming as RTÉ’s “statement of intent”.

“As the backbone of the industry, RTÉ has to, wants to and needs to invest in Ireland’s audio-visual creative industry. RTÉ wants to do more, and the new season sees us take decisive steps in this direction.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics