Last night saw another edition of the Ray D'Arcy Show receiving an unmerciful slating on social media. It's now got to the stage that simply clicking on the show's hashtag on Twitter will open a wealth of abuse, sarcastic comments and general trashing of the show and D'Arcy's efforts.
The show didn't exactly get off to a great start, with ratings taking a huge dive during the Rugby World Cup and just about recovering since then. More than anything, D'Arcy hasn't let both online abuse and falling ratings get in his way as he seems more determined than ever to make a good show of it all. But is it working?
The short answer is no, but it's not exactly his fault. It's Ireland's fault.
Too often, a common complaint with the likes of ANY chat show in Ireland is that the guests are crap. Whether it's the Late Late Show or something like the Seven O'Clock Show, the guests are usually whoever researchers and bookers can scramble to get in front of a camera. The reality is is that trying to entice international guests, be they actors, directors, musicians, whatever, is an expensive proposition.
Unless they're specifically plugging a film, an album or anything of the like, it's not going to happen. There's just no way Sylvester Stallone or Sia Furler is going to fly in to talk to Ryan Tubridy purely because he's Ryan Tubridy. The same is true of Ray D'Arcy. Sure, he might have interviewed a few famous faces when he was on TodayFM or on his new show on Radio 1, but it's not like they're lining up for him. What's more, the audience in Ireland is too small to warrant studios or labels sending artists out for an interview.
Some might point to his sensibility when hosting the show, that he's too aloof or sarcastic or somehow awkward or unfunny in his mannerisms. Again, that's not his fault. Ray D'Arcy isn't a comedian. He's not naturally funny, either. He's just a broadcaster, the same way Ryan Tubridy's a broadcaster. Look at Graham Norton. He was a comedic actor before he started his show. Jimmy Fallon was a comedy writer and performer on Saturday Night Live. Stephen Colbert hosted one of the most popular TV comedy chat shows in the world. So what's the answer? Put a comedian in the seat instead?
Yeah, quite possibly that might be the answer. Look at some of the chat shows or panel shows that RTE got right. Don't Feed The Gandolas, for example, was hosted by Sean Moncrieff and had a lively debate topic to it, but nothing strayed into the realm of serious talk. Likewise, the follow-up Good Grief Moncrieff! was a blast that lasted for one season because RTE One audiences, at the time, weren't ready for a late night-comedy talk show.
Could Ireland hope to have one? It's doubtful. Even if you did have a fantastic Irish comedian who was willing to put his head into the lion's mouth of chat show hosting, they're still going to come up against the same problems that Ray D'Arcy's facing. They're still going to have to contend with crap guests, lacklustre ratings and an inability for Irish audiences to give a shit about the latest celebrity chef / lifestyle blogger / fashion expert who's on to fill up air time. Even if the guests aren't up to scratch, the host should still be able to make it lively and entertaining.
You just need to look at Conan or David Letterman in his prime to see how it can be done well. A chat show should be lead by the host, not by the guests. It's the host who's supposed to entertain us, draw us in and watch. Nobody really gives a shit about the guest because, let's face it, they're doing the rounds. We're watching to see what the host does with them, how they'll engage them and us. That's the selling point.
Is there an alternative, then? The short answer is no. Even if Ireland inexplicably became the must-stop destination for press junkets, it still doesn't change the fact that the format itself that Ray D'Arcy is working off is old-hat.
Nobody really wants or cares about serious interviews on chat shows anymore. When Parkinson retired, that was pretty much it for serious chat shows. Audiences simply don't respond to that anymore, not when you've got Graham Norton, Ellen and Jimmy Fallon making YouTube-friendly skits with famous people that immediately connect with audiences. Stephen Colbert, for example, is trying to push audiences back to a considered, serious interview style. It's working, for the most part, but this is Stephen Colbert, one of the funniest people on the planet. If he can just about do it, Ray D'Arcy's going to have a HUGE challenge ahead of him.
Not only that, does Ireland really need TWO chat shows? It's always been the joke that whichever guest was on Saturday's show wasn't big enough to make it on the Late Late Show. So, in a sense, you'd have to wonder about why they continue to force the show out when people complain about whatever guest the Late Late Show gets.
Regardless of all this, the fact remains that Ray D'Arcy Show is here to stay for the forseeable future. At least until Brendan O'Connor's back on, and then it's more of the same, isn't it?