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Irish television…

Why can’t RTE produce a standard thirteen-part drama once a year? I am a huge television fan and I can’t wrap my head around it. I know they aren’t the BBC – nor should they or could they – but it’s incredibly hard to justify given that the station has possibly the best current affairs department in the world and an above-average record with comedies (though they never should have passed on Father Ted).

I flick over to the ever-reliable Beeb and I see any number of highly-watchable drama shows that run once-a-year every year – Doctor Who, Torchwood, Spooks, Hustle, Ashes to Ashes, New Tricks to name but a few. Wow. And for my irish television licence, what do I get? Raw. A show about a restaurant that is reviewing terribly. Still, we get a second season, so that’s good, right? Maybe they’ll commission a second season of something good.

(Very) Raw talent

(Very) Raw talent

We have the talent in the country – The Abbey and The Gate see to our acting talent, many of whom emigrate to find work; there’s a rapidly emerging Irish film circuit that provides the directors; we’re a nation highly respected as writers – so why hasn’t it happened yet? I have dozens of TV shows on DVD, but not one of them is Irish, save the crappy Reeling in The Years compilation RTE produced. No Irish drama. (And the show is amazing… due to rights issues, the DVD less so.)

We have room in the schedule – a disturbing proportion of RTE’s broadcasts are imports – and we also have the money, we’re just spending it wrong. Why do I need RTE to show Lost when I can see it in higher quality on Sky? What’s the point of getting Desperate Housewives on RTE when there are 101 other boland import-filled channels on my digibox? Sure, it might garner ratings and advertising revenue by acquiring exclusive rights, but what’s the point of having a state broadcaster to do that for us?

It made sense before the internet allowed us to see anything anywhere almost simultaneously. It made sense before digital made it possible for ordinary households to see anything we wanted. What is the purpose of a public-service broadcaster that doesn’t offer anything we can’t get anywhere else? Even if you could argue that Irish drama isn’t financial lucrative, there’s a reason we fund the public arts. And it’s not to see 30 Rock (awesome as it may be) a few weeks early.

Sure, you counter, RTE does original programming. I’ll give you current affairs. I love Prime Time and I want to run away and marry Brian Dobson. I’ll accept comedy like Bachelors Walk, as it is high quality entertainment. Hell, even the one off drams can be good (Whistleblower), but they can also be so bad it’s horrible (Butter Sweat). I am disgusted with the amount of crass reality television knockoffs we produce as a nation. I makes my physically sick. Sure, every other station in the world does it, but the good ones offset it with something good and smart and brave (or at least better and smarter and braver), instead of patting the audience on the head with some American sitcom.

I want to love RTE, I really do. It’s all there, ready and waiting to be used. They don’t seem to be willing to use it though. And that really ticks me off.

I’m going to go watch the BBC.