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Thursday 23 October 2014

RTE has another go at daytime telly

Fears that RTE1's new late-afternoon vehicle The Daily Show, which teams erstwhile Newstalk breakfast show presenter Claire Byrne with amiable Gaelgeoir hunk Daithi O Se, would be little more than a weak facsimile of BBC1's early-evening vehicle The One Show have proved to be unfounded.

If anything, this latest permutation in RTE's ongoing effort to crack the afternoon television nut has turned out to be much, much worse.

If The Daily Show (and hadn't anyone in RTE heard of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart before coming up with that particular title?) resembles anything, in fact, it's a less oestrogen-heavy version of TV3's how-many-chicks-does-it-take-to-change-a-lightbulb gabfest, Midday.

This, I'm pretty sure, wasn't the plan. So what was the plan, then? Beyond throwing together Byrne and O Se, who RTE obviously regard as two of their brightest assets, I'm not sure there was one.

Television executives' favourite word when it comes to afternoon television is "chemistry", that indefinable magic that happens when two presenters fit together as smoothly as Lego bricks.

But in the case of Byrne and O Se, someone appears to have left the Bunsen burner locked in the boot of the car, because The Daily Show never warmed up.

Wedged tightly together behind a too-small desk and wearing an identical shade of deep blue (a conscious wardrobe decision, or a simple faux pas?), Byrne and O Se looked like a couple of commuters reluctantly sharing a damp seat at the back of a crowded bus.

Things got off to a shaky start when O Se almost stepped on Byrne's opening line -- something that recurred a couple of times over the following 50 minutes.

You could put this down to first-day nerves, but the format of having joint interviewers quizzing the same guest at the same time is always awkward and unwieldy.

Afternoon TV is fertile soil for mushrooming egos.

It's always tricky to get the balance of personalities just right: think the catastrophic, short-lived pairing of Seoige & O'Shea, or for that matter, Claire Byrne's frequently spiky relationship with the boorish Ivan Yates on Newstalk.

Byrne and O Se seem to like each other, which helps, but it's hard to know if their very different personalities will ultimately click or clash.

Byrne, a graduate of TV3's ice-cool blonde finishing school, appears to be still stuck in the Newstalk zone, while O Se is . . . well, he's Daithi, isn't he: raucous, garrulous and liable to jump in there with both feet.

It didn't help that yesterday's material was uninspired.

Aside from main celebrity guest Gail Porter, who talked about her new documentary series, there was a superficial skip through the stories making the news, with Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte and journalist Brian O'Connell; a vox pop of Cork supporters on whether Brian Cowen should resign; a phone-in poll on the same topic; a bit of celeb-shlock recycled (by showbusiness reporter Lottie Ryan, daughter of the late Gerry) from the tabloids and gossip websites, and, rather bizarrely, a mini-quiz called Three Little Words.

The fundamental problem with The Daily Show is that it's not really a show in its own right; it's half a show, the other half being Four Live, a concoction of warmed-up lifestyle, cookery and human interest items left over from The Afternoon Show and hosted by Maura Derrane.

Four Live segues directly into The Daily Show, but the notional idea that these are two distinct and separate programmes, rather than a single one chopped into two, is shattered by the fact that The Daily Show set is in a same studio, a few feet away from Derrane's patch.

The Daily Show seems to be a case of RTE cultivating its stars, rather than cultivating an afternoon audience.

STACEY'S STARS

THE DAILY SHOW **

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