Bread and Circuses


RTÉ had a great formula in an All-Ireland Talent Show, reckons Alison Lee, but they’ve messed it up

An All-Ireland Talent Show could have had potential. It could have showcased the country’s diverse talents, giving old and young alike a chance to shine on TV at a time where we could use a boost to our sense of national pride. But it was not to be: RTÉ’s cheapskate cheesemongers got their claws into the series, and churned out a knock-off worthy of being sold out of the back of a car down some dodgy alleyway. Ireland’s Got Talent, also known as The All-Ireland Talent Show has re-emerged for a lamentable second run.

otwo tuned in to witness the familiar sight of members of the public being ridiculed by a “panel of experts”, under the auspices of shiny plastic presenter Grainne “The Ma” Seoige. The judges included B-list celebs Shane “Desperate Dan” Lynch and The Actually Desperate Dana, who on a good day might just about get a mention in the gossip column of the Herald or an interview on Ireland AM.

At least the contestants, battling it out for a spot in the semi-final, were more diverse than the regular Pop Idol hopefuls. Two of the acts were pretty-young-girl-vocalists (nothing new there), but there were also two bizarrely-dressed, shrill-voiced females (?) who purported to be a comedy duo, a spoons player known as Johnny Bongos, and a marching band from Donegal made up mostly of small children. The attempts of this motley crew were then dissected by the judges, the votes were counted, and pretty young singer Tara Burke McDonnell and the Cloughaneely Marching Band were the lucky ones chosen to fight another day.

The problem with TV talent contests is that those who provide the “entertainment” – who actually get on stage to sing, dance, whatever – aren’t paid for their services, unlike the judges who just sit back, relax and criticise. Judges like Daithí Ó Sé obviously don’t take the business in any way seriously, but the same can’t be said for the participants. Anyone who argues that “it’s all for fun” obviously didn’t spot the tearful children of the Cloughaneely Marching Band clasping their hands in prayer and mouthing the words “please please please” while awaiting the judges’ decision. Perhaps, at the very least, RTÉ should enforce an age limit on contestants – though heaven forbid viewers be deprived of kiddies to coo over.

Sharon Shannon appeared as a guest, and demonstrated that real talent doesn’t achieve recognition through winning cheap TV contests. The difference between her musicianship and the embarrassing, overproduced performances of the contestants was painfully obvious. Those that call the shots in the broadcasting world don’t seem to have copped on to this just yet, and sadly it’s doubtful they ever will – not while there are TV viewers out there enjoying such “bread and circuses” doled out with depressing regularity.

The All-Ireland Talent Show is broadcast on RTÉ1 every Sunday at 6:30pm