Is the Late Late Show turning its back on the good old days of having something for everyone in the audience? That is what it looks like.
Welcome to Ireland 2016, where the line-up for tonight's Late Late Show, still billing itself as Ireland's most popular and prestigious television show, includes dapper 89-year-old former James Bond Roger Moore, aging pop angel and Take That alumnus Robbie Williams and Ireland rugby kicker Johnny Sexton.
Olympic rowing silver-medallists the O'Donovan brothers are on and two decades of TG4 will be honoured with a panel of the channel's big names, including Dáithí Ó Sé, Maura Derrane and Hector Ó hEochagáin. Hypnotist Keith Barry and Chatty Man Alan Carr will also talk to host Ryan Tubridy.
That looks like nine men to one woman to us. Trust us, we’ve done the maths.
The week before hardly gave the girls and boys equal measure, either. Singer Michael Bublé, chat show host and novelist Graham Norton, Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy and Ireland's youngest cookery export and Irish Times food writer Donal Skehan talked to Tubridy. Plus Nathan Carter paid a musical tribute to the late Joe Dolan.
Look, some of us women love a bit of Bublé, don’t get us wrong, but it would just be nice to be invited to the party sometimes.
The week before that, on Friday October 14th, a few women had indeed been invited to the Late Late party.
Singer and writer Kathleen Watkins was a guest, journalist Sinead O’Carroll was on a panel and Donna Taggart sang and was interviewed.
It was raining women, until normal service was resumed and it started raining men again.
Welcome to the sofa Hairy Bikers Dave Myers and Si King, panellists Chris Donoghue and Eamon Dunphy, obesity expert Professor Donal O’Shea, impressionist Oliver Callan and comedian Colm O’Regan. (Of course O’Regan is famous for his LOLs about Irish Mammies, but whether this pushes him into the woman quota is debatable.)
The women who get to punctuate the roll call of Late Late Show men do a fine job – take a bow Pippa O’Connor, who held up the XX chromosome card the previous week, and racy Jilly Cooper, who mounted Tubridy’s sofa the week before that on Friday, September 30th. But, although they do sterling work at making the difference, it can look like women are not waving but drowning in a sea of male guests.
Late Late not alone
For anyone thinking that they might show their chagrin at the paucity of female guests on the Late Late by switching over to a rival national channel that clearly likes, to paraphrase Phil Lynott, a bit of Irish in it, Graham Norton on BBC 1 may not have all the answers either.
Tonight our Graham has actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston and LeAnn Rimes for the singing. That's 3-1, as Gary Lineker might say on Match of the Day.
Among the guests on Norton’s sofa last week were Tom Cruise and his co-star Cobie Smulders, Pope-y Jude Law and actress Catherine Tate. That was enough girls for one week, maybe, so music came from the band of brothers Kings of Leon.
On Friday, October 14th, One Direction star turned solo artist Niall Horan, actress Amy Adams, actor Jeremy Renner and comic actor Chris O'Dowd were on Graham Norton. It was another "bit of Irish" for us all, but not that many women.
Getting female bums on seats seems to be a problem for both RTÉ’s and BBC’s leading chat shows.
Recently, Dr Mary McAuliffe, assistant professor in gender studies at UCD, put her money where her mouth is and Manelwatch Ireland, which operates on Twitter as @manelwatchire, was born.
She was tired of getting information on conferences only to find there were very few or no women on the panels. “There are many qualified women out there who are more than able to talk, but you so often have all male panels in academia.
“Women are in academia, but women are in all areas – the law, politics, business, entertainment - all areas. But women are not represented equally.”
She is determined to effect change in academia, but she believes gender equality should permeate everywhere.
“When we query why women are not included, we are often told the decision has been a meritocratic one. But why are men more meritorious than women when it comes to every event?” Dr McAuliffe asks.
She has stopped watching The Late Late Show, because she does not feel part of it.
Regarding the number of male guests, Late Late Show producer John McMahon said: “As RTÉ’s biggest chat show, our goal is to maximise audience on a weekly basis. It is very difficult to refuse guests of the calibre that were available this week and last. As a result, both last week’s show, and to a lesser extent, this week’s are more heavily weighted towards male guests than we would like.
“This is simply a function of the quality of guests available and their appeal to an RTÉ One audience, as proved by last week when The Late Late Show achieved an audience share of 46.5 per cent. Our September 23rd programme featured many female guests and it too rated over a 46 per cent share, so, we are fully committed to giving great guests of both genders access to The Late Late Show whenever possible.”
For anyone who doesn’t memorise the Late Late line-up each week, on September 23rd it was as follows: President Michael D Higgins, John Connors on his documentary series on the history of the Traveller community, Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope writer Stefanie Preissner, Ireland Paralympics medallists Ellen Keane and Niamh McCarthy and RTÉ anchor Daráine Mulvihill and comedian Jessica Thom. Music was from The Blizzards, Cathy Davey and Ralph McTell and John Sheehan.
We shall see if the swallow turns into a summer. However, McAuliffe is not convinced.
“The fact that there are so few women guests on The Late Late Show is representative of the systemic societal exclusion of women,” she says.
These days, Mary McAuliffe just turns the television off. She is one Kerrywoman the Late Late Show has lost.