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Tuesday 18 December 2018

If you don't ask personal questions, then you don't understand good TV

Ryan Tubridy says that The Late Late show audience didn't give a monkey's about Ronan Keating cheating on his wife, Yvonne.

That's why he didn't ask the singer about the affair. He has evidence to support his belief. He told a Sunday newspaper that no complaints came to the programme about him not asking the question. Or if there were complaints, they could be counted on the fingers of one hand, whereas his audience really got their knickers knotted (my words, not his) about something Neil Delamere said on the same show.

Now, here's the reality. Ronan Keating sings well and has had a number of hits. He started a charity in his mother's name because of her death from cancer. He has a wife, kids and a motorbike. Pleasant enough bloke, but not exactly a showstopper, in conversational terms. Not controversial. Not outrageously funny. Not riveting about politics, the secret life of the cockroach or the breeding of pin-striped budgies.



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The sort of guy with whom you do a two-minute interview, standing beside him in front of the band, before you say "Take it away, Ronan," and let him deliver a song.

The only interesting thing about Ronan Keating in recent years was his infidelity. The only point of any interview was to ask questions about the affair. Otherwise, he was going to give the usual guff about the joys of touring and of spending time in the recording studio laying down some really exciting work -- and viewers at home are going to head in droves for the kitchen to make a cuppa.

A presenter in Ryan's seat could leave out the affair if they'd made an advance deal with the singer, although they haven't a clue about what makes good TV if they would make such a deal. But that's beside the point. Ryan has always said no deal was done.

Again, a presenter could leave out the affair if he doesn't like being asked about his own sex life. Ryan doesn't like that kind of invasion, but he's smart and he knows enough about TV to work out a way of indicating "Sorry about this chum, and I don't like it when it gets applied to me, but what about that affair, then?"

None of that happened. According to Ryan himself, he left out the affair question because "it wasn't relevant". It's the only factor about the bloke in front of him that justifies an interview in the first place, and it's not relevant? Did someone drop Ryan on his head? Did they drop his entire team on their heads?

According to the man himself, they collectively work out the questions he's going to ask. I refuse to believe that a bright, fiercely competitive production team at such a meeting would ignore the Keating soap opera which had taken over media for weeks. It's just not possible that someone at a pre-production meeting, didn't say, "For God's sake, Ryan, it's your job to scratch people where they itch, and this sure as hell is where the public itch about Ronan Keating. Ask the bloody question."



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Ryan says his numbers are marvellous. Good for him. The fact is, nonetheless, that, right now, two major speed bumps are slowing his gallop. Half the time, he looks as if he's concentrated on getting an interviewee to tell him whatever they told the researcher in the preliminary interview. Box-ticking, rather than free-wheeling genuine curiosity. Control, rather than risk. The questions are random, rather than arising out of what the guest says.

The second bump is Ryan's discomfort with asking intrusive questions. He's a pro. He asks them. But he pads them around with the cotton-wool of introductions and apologies.

The sooner he tosses the apologies and the cards and gets genuinely interested in the human in front of him, the sooner he'll deliver on his real capacity.

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