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Friday 21 November 2014

Guess what the hit's missing

In 1979, Roxy Music released a single called Trash, from their album Manifesto. You can't get much more fate-tempting than that – unless, of course, you make the rash decision to call a television programme The Hit. If you're going to do that, you might as well volunteer to be locked in the stocks having first distributed the assembled onlookers with pre-rotted fruit.

And this is pretty much what RTE2 did with its new Friday night song-cum- talent contest.

It hasn't taken long for the inevitable question: "Hit or miss?"

The answer to the question is in the viewing audience for last Friday's opener, which was a tad short of 270,000. Don't be surprised if that's as good as it gets.

habits

RTE is putting a positive spin on the numbers by trotting out the usual argument that fewer people watch television in summer than during autumn or winter, a claim that's rather undermined by the large audiences for several of RTE's other, equally uninspired summertime offerings.

But even if you accept that the good weather we've been having lately has impacted on the public's television-watching habits, 270,000 is still a disappointing return for a broadcaster used to pulling in huge numbers for The Voice of Ireland, The All-Ireland Talent Show and You're a Star, irrespective of their quality.

Whatever you think about any of those, they certainly did the business ratings-wise. The problem with The Hit is it doesn't do the business on any level.

Co-presented by the interchangeably bland Aidan Power and Nicky Byrne – stood side-by-side in tuxedos, they look more like a demonstration of split-screen trickery than two separate human beings – the show is a dull, confusing mess from start to finish.

The atmosphere wasn't helped by there being just 550 people in the 14,000-capacity O2 Arena for Friday's live broadcast, a consequence of RTE's bizarre decision to charge €5 for tickets.

Tickets for TV shows are normally given away free on a first come, first served basis. Expecting people to stump up for a show with no track record is a bit rich at a time when the public aren't.

Each week, record producer Steve Lillywhite picks five songs from new song writers. Two singers – Julie Feeney and The Stunning frontman Steve Wall in the first show – then select two songs each from the batch and decide which one they'll record and release as their latest single.

The tease is nobody knows which one they've chosen until they actually perform it on the stage of the O2.

frowning

Baffled? Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to grasp the rules, because The Hit wastes an interminable amount of time on the artists flitting back and forth between the songwriters, who are busily performing their compositions in little chambers called pitching rooms, agonising over which to pick.

If your idea of a good Friday in front of the box is watching two people repeatedly striding across a stage while frowning and sucking their thumbs, The Hit is the show you've been waiting for your whole life. If it's not, you might consider better ways to spend your time. RTE2 certainly needs to.

legacy of the lambs It's been 25 years since the publication of The Silence of the Lambs, the second and, thanks to the film version, most celebrated of Thomas Harris's books featuring serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

Television, as well as literary thrillers, owes a big debt to Harris and his bogeyman. Without them we probably wouldn't have Dexter. We certainly wouldn't have Hannibal the series, starring Mads Mikkelsen (right) as a very different but no less scary Lecter, or indeed all the other dark, disturbing dramas, including The Fall, that have come our way lately.

The character made it possible not just to be entranced by insane murderers, but to actually like them. It's celebration time, so throw some liver in the pan (fava beans optional) and, while it's frying, uncork a nice Chianti. "F-f-f-f-f-f!"

triumph of netflix As Meatloaf once sang, "Two out of three ain't bad." Three out of four is better, though. That's the hit-to-miss strike rate so far of Netflix's original programming.

The revived Arrested Development, starring original cast members including Portia de Rossi (pictured above), was warmly received by old fans and newcomers. House of Cards picked up nine Emmy nominations.

Netflix's latest venture, prison comedy-drama Orange is the New Black (which I've yet to watch), received rave reviews. The only dud in the batch is lunatic horror potboiler Hemlock Grove, yet even that has been renewed for a second series. Conventional television, just like vinyl, CDs, DVDs and books printed on paper, will never die out, but the executives at the big US networks must be nervous right now.

COLLYWOBBLES ON THE COBBLES: Has Coronation Street ever been this awful? Tediously overstretched storylines like Gary's failure to bond with his baby (payback, as far as I'm concerned, for months of whingeing by him and his dreary wife) and the ridiculous racism row involving Lloyd and Eileen's boring fireman boyfriend (so boring I can't even remember his name) would test the patience of an oyster.

Meanwhile, Dev's bid to become Weatherfield's answer to Philip Marlowe by unmasking the real Rovers arsonist seems to have been quietly dropped for now.

Could the trials and tribulations of certain, currently absent cast members be giving the scriptwriters the collywobbles?

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