W HEN Elaine Crowley answers the phone she is in the middle of diffusing a ‘situation’ at her family home in Cork. Her three-year-old nephew is in the middle of a make-believe game and is reluctant to let his famous aunt leave for a dose of Christmas reality. ‘It’s not a bomb,’ she tells him, scurrying away to another room. ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I am exhausted. Three year olds are very energetic and they get up very early. It is nice to feel love. But they won’t let me leave.’
To be fair Elaine, who until now hosted the TV3 afternoon talk show Midday, is feeling a lot of love; especially from her employer. It was announced last month that Midday will be replaced by a mid-afternoon chat show simply titled ‘Elaine’. At a time where stalwart shows are being poked, prodded and sheared by the money men, this is a major vote of confidence in the hostess with the most. To get a show bearing your own name is the biggest compliment you can get in television land.
Elaine is quick to reassure her loyal audience that the core message of Midday will stay the same even if the name is changing.
‘I am up the walls as you can imagine and I have to pull a whole new show together by January 9. It is going to be Midday with elements of a chat show thrown in there. I have to decide how that will work but the panel element will definitely stay. I am also going to try and get a celebrity interview and/or a news interview every day if I can. We might also try and take the show into town with a camera and get some public reaction as well. But I would like to have one 15minute big interview if I can. But you know yourself, these are all plans and it might not work but sure we have to start somewhere. It is fun; I’ll be a very busy girl.
‘You have to split it up into two parts. Presenter me is over the moon because it is a huge endorsement of the brand. Although it is mortifying thinking of yourself as a brand. It is a great testament to what we were doing because there are so many changes in TV3 with Virgin taking over and Bill Malone in the top job. But the fact that they are giving me a show with my own name on it is kind of cool. I’m getting slagged off at home that here comes Oprah or Ellen, I’ve Oprah’s a*** and that’s about as close as I am to the two of them. But the producer side of me knows how daunting a project it is and the first few months will be very much trial and error.’
The celebrity title doesn’t sit well with the woman from Mallow, Co. Cork. With five sisters and four brothers there was certainly no resting on her laurels growing up. She says that when the powers that be sat her down and told her the title of her new gig she erupted with laughter.
‘I didn’t get much beyond the name because I just started roaring laughing and asked were they serious,’ she says. ‘I was thinking mid-afternoon would be more appropriate but I just think it is quite strange.’
But now that she has had time to digest the title she has moved on to the mechanics of the production. When she speaks about the level of detail she puts in behind the scenes, you realise why she was a natural choice for the job.
‘I am going to softly ease into it and see how it goes,’ she says. ‘It is an unfamiliar time slot for me. It’s not prime time where you get the big celeb interviews but it is not the morning where you can sit down and talk bull with a cup of tea. I don’t look at competition [RTÉ’s The Today Show]. I have never ever done that with Midday. I never watched one episode of Loose Women and I never watched Midday until I was in the hot seat myself. I don’t want to have any idea of what the others are doing so that I can remain pure.
‘Because it is a chat show. I am not reinventing the wheel here. Everyone
‘A show with my own name is kind of cool’
does it to a different degree. The crux of the show will very much be the audience feedback and the clips and comments from the viewers. I will be looking to the public to tell me what does and doesn’t work and you even know after a day to be honest. It is a studio show at the moment but you can’t rule anything out for the future. Logistically there isn’t room for it at the moment but in theory I would love to have an audience, I would like to take the show on the road once a month and bring it around the country… that would be cool.’
After spending six years at the helm of Midday, producing and presenting, Elaine admits she was ready for a change of sorts. The grind of driving her own daily magazine show as well as doing the leg work behind the scenes was beginning to take its toll and the change is most certainly as good as a rest.
‘It needs to be fresh because Midday was on the air for a long time and while a lot of people loved it, every show has a shelf life. Unless it is The Late Late Show, in which case it is a national institution. You could have a performing monkey hosting it and people would still watch it. Not that
Elaine Crowley’s self-titled chat show starts tomorrow