A Year Of TV News
Posted by Conor Moloney on 30 Mar, 2021
Let’s start with an understatement ….. it’s been an odd 12 months ….
Akin to many of our colleagues across the industry, lockdown number one saw a few of our planned series hit the dust … just unproduceable in a global pandemic. But back in March 2020 we were very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the right idea …. Ireland On Call was a rare beast – pitched, commissioned and produced in a matter of three weeks. RTE’s nimbleness was public service broadcasting in action. Made with our good friends at Scratch Films the series was designed to provide up to date, reliable and trusted information and advice – about public health guidelines, about the virus itself, about staying safe and healthy, about money (hundreds and thousands of people were facing a new financial reality) …. any area really where the virus was having a societal effect.
We’re immensely proud of Ireland On Call. Outside of the hard information and advice we offered viewers we sought to reflect a sense of solidarity and community at a critical time, showing what people on the ground were doing to help one another. Even as people were dying – and it was very easy to just see those fatalities as statistics – that sense of community was really uplifting and incredible to witness. We also filmed on the front lines – getting privileged access to hospitals, and also told the story of the pandemic from the point of view of firefighters, guards, retail workers, postmen and women … all those who continued to provide a public service.
The series was brilliantly fronted by Katie Hannon and Brendan Courtney, offering a combination of journalistic integrity and empathy. Among the first productions to be made in the pandemic, it was a twice weekly, live outside broadcast from the Department of Health with a range of VTs filmed (much of the filming on iPhones) and edited in the immediate days before each broadcast. We had to come up with new ways of doing everything to make sure we kept everyone safe. Hats off to all involved, my fellow producer Liam McGrath at Scratch, Producer John Daly, Director Maurice Linnane, Floor Manager Janine Curran, the crew at NEP, and a host of others too many to mention.
The series ran for 13 episodes, ending as restrictions eased. By then society was opening up and production became possible on our returning series, Ear To The Ground, How To Be Good With Money and The Style Counsellors.
It was a special year for Ear To The Ground because it was the first season to be produced without original producers John Cummins or Liam Lavelle – who made the first series 28 years ago. John hung up his wellies a few years back, Liam just last year. Producer Paula Williams stepped into those big boots and delivered a glorious Series 28. That she managed to do this in the face of not one but two lockdowns is of immense credit to her and her team. Presenters Darragh McCullough, Ella McSweeney and Helen Carroll brought their informed journalism and instinctive curiousity to another 48 stories from all corners of the country.
A word on Liam – who was denied a proper send off after some 36 years with the company. Liam was Ear To The Ground and Ear To The Ground was Liam. While it’s not quite his life’s work he, along with John, made it the institution it is. There are few households, rural or urban, who are not familiar with this much loved brand, appreciated I think for its honesty and integrity – which is a reflection really of the man who was at the centre of it for so long. When “this” is all over, we’ll have that party …. Roll on.
How To Be Good With Money returned for a third season. Again, I am in awe of the team who navigated their way through the Pandemic restrictions – Series Producer Ciara Kerrigan, Producer Helen Power and Series Director Rachael Moriarty delivered a fantastically strong and compelling series with money man Eoin McGee doing his thing so wonderfully well.
The Style Counsellors also returned for Series 2 and delivered strong audiences through its January and February run. Series Producer Michelle Carty and Series Director Joanne McGrath brought a fresh look and feel to the fashion show as they imaginatively navigated their way through covid production protocols. Suzanne Jackson and Eileen Smith reprised their presenting roles brilliantly – albeit separately. The great team behind the scenes included stylist and fashion consultant Colm Corrigan, Producer Dolores Comerford and PA Sarah Blake Knox.
And in September we collaborated once again with Scratch Films to make A Big Week In September, marking the return of over a half a million young people to schools for the first time in nearly 6 months. Credit where credit is due, this was a documentary substantially delivered by Liam at Scratch, but we were happy to play our part in documenting history. At the end of that film, the wonderful Principal of St Dominic’s secondary school in Ballyfermot gave us the lines that would close the film so aptly … and I’m paraphrasing …. The sun will rise and the sun will set and the sun will rise again …. This too will pass ….. and so say all of us.