(first broadcast 29 September 1986
) is the children's television strand on RTÉ Two
in the Republic of Ireland
. Its former names include Dempsey's Den
, Den TV
. The strand airs from 06:00 to 17:30 each weekday, with the brand also being used on weekend mornings.
The Den received a complete makeover, with a change in format and a brand new visual identity on Saturday 17 September 2005. Much of the information in this article relates to the "old" Den. For information on the "new" Den, see the section "Current format".
As well as airing on RTÉ Two, The Den has its own electronic programme guide placement on NTL Ireland, channel 601, though this is simply a duplicate of the RTÉ Two feed rather than a separate channel.
The Den has a reputation for airing many new episodes of shows such as Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Totally Spies!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 series), etc. before any other network in Europe.
RTÉ completely relaunched The Den on 17 September 2005 - although as this was a Saturday, the new weekday programme formats proper began airing on 19 September. The new Den was divided into three main strands:
- Wakey Wakey, airing from 07:15 - 09:00, presented by Kathryn McKiernan.
- Den Tots, airing from 09:00 - 14:35, presented by Emma O'Driscoll, Charly and Socky (see puppets, below). This is aimed at pre-schoolers.
- The Club, airing from 14:35 - 17:00, presented again by Kathryn McKiernan. This is followed at 17:00 by RTÉ's news bulletin aimed at children - NEWS2DAY.
On Saturday mornings, Sattitude airs, with ClubDisney, produced in association with The Walt Disney Company, airing on Sunday mornings.
With this re-launch, the main section of The Den has its first female presenter. Also, the puppets (bar Dustin, Soky, Charly and Zuppy) have been largely removed from this section, with the launch of their own programme, DDN. It also sees a re-focusing of the breakfast slot away from pre-schoolers and towards older children, hence the fact that it is now presented by the same presenter as the afternoon programmes.
From September 2007 Wakey Wakey, The Club and DDN were taken off the air. The latter was replaced with ICE, presented by Sinead Kennedy, Brian Ormond and Rob Ross. Kathyrn McKiernan presents Kazoo. There is no current presenter although Kathryn now says what is on next during the new The Den Now Next Later graphics with The Den BOUNCE graphic at the end. Dustin the Turkey now presents The Once a Week Show with co-host Sinéad Ni Churnain.
began in the 1980s as Dempsey's Den
, it was fronted by Ian Dempsey
for many years, and ran from 15:00 to 18:00 every weekday, broadcasting originally on RTÉ 1
, before switching to Network 2
following its revamp in 1987. It contained almost all of RTÉ's children's programming output for many years, with the exception of Bosco
(shown immediately before The Den
) and a half-hour of teenage
oriented programming shown immediately after The Den
In 1990, Ian Dempsey was replaced by Ray D'Arcy, although he remained for a number of years afterwards in the regular pop music section of the show, "Pop Goes The Den". D'Arcy presented the show until 1999, when he was replaced by Damien McCaul. Francis Boylan, Jr. took over the reins in 2004. Over time, the programme dropped the leading "Dempsey's", and alternated between the names The Den and Den TV. Following the re-brand of Network 2 to N2 in 1997, Den TV became Den2, but this reverted to The Den in 2002.
In 2004, The Den introduced a daily news programme for children, NEWS2DAY, somewhat similar to the BBC's Newsround
The format of the show changed very little during Dempsey and D'Arcy's years; it would start at 15:00 after Bosco, show a "kiddie" cartoon, and then do the "Birthday Slot." This would be a scroller of photos of children whose parents had sent in photos to be shown, followed by a music video. There would then be another cartoon or two, an original RTÉ programme, followed by another cartoon and a music video, after which the programme ended. On certain days of the week, a quiz would be inserted in place of one of the cartoons.
The show is presented from a studio to this day; the station has been a treehouse, No. 10 Celebrity Square, a chipvan, the interior of a UFO and a newsroom among other variations, with the presenter behind a desk (or counter, in the chipvan), and a collection of puppets either permanently or temporarily in front of the desk.
After Ray D'Arcy left the programme, the format changed significantly. The Christmas show was dropped (the old specials were sometimes repeated), an hour in the morning before school time was added, presented by a different presenter, Geri Maye, with only Soky from the puppets.
The 1998 re-launch saw The Den
, renamed Den2
at this point, become much more like a TV station of its own, with its own trailers and presentation. It now aired from 06:00 through to 17:00, and from 2001 was followed by a youth strand, iD
(renamed iD Two
in late 2004, and becoming TTV
in September 2005). Den 2
ran from 07:35 until 17:00 and iD Two
ran from 17:00 until 19:00.
For much of the time during the day, there were no continuity links. However, during this period there were two sections of the programme which did have presentation: "Den AM" (aka "Socky's Big Little Morning Show") in the mornings, which was presented by Geri Maye (who was for a time engaged to former presenter Ray D'Arcy) until early 2005, and the traditional afternoon slot, which was presented by Francis Boylan, Jr. until June 2005. The strand re-adopted the name "The Den" in 2002. Prominent sports figure and economist turned children's TV star Denis Cavanagh also made regularly appearances on the show, his down to earth wit and diamond personality clear for all to see.
While the programme had changed, much of its original spirit still remained: there were still quizzes, the Birthday scroller still existed, and there were still puppets.
- Main article: Echo Island
A "children's magazine" show, along the lines of Blueprint Peter, Echo Island ran three days a week for many years in both English and Irish language versions. This was later known as "Echo".
"JMTV" was a mainly music-based show aimed at adolescents
, shown in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was shown directly after The Den
had ended, but was integrated into the show by the delayed displaying of The Den's copyright notice until after it had ended.
One of the most successful parts of the programme has been its puppets.
They are listed below.
Zig & Zag
The first, and possibly the most famous, of the puppets were the original Zig and Zag, two ten year old aliens from the Planet Zog
. These were a very successful franchise on their own, spawning parody
tapes, comic books
and car toys. A popular toy throughout the late 1980s were zogabongs
, the unusual antennae on Zig and Zag's hair.
Zig and Zag left for a presenting job on Channel 4's The Big Breakfast, whereas Zuppy, Soky and Dustin remained. Zig and Zag returned to Ireland to host "2Phat", a music-quiz show along with Ray D'Arcy where students had the chance to win a limited edition scooter. The show ran for two seasons and was well received. Other popular characters on the show were Velcro Girl, DJ Lee and Zag's alter ego Reverend Groove. They will be back on Irish TV in September 2008.
Zig and Zag have a dog called Zuppy, who rarely appeared but was more used in comic books. He is still with the show, actually.
Another regular on the programme, and another of the most famous, from December 1989 right up until now has been Dustin the Turkey. Dustin was originally introduced when Zag won him for coming last in a golf tournament. He was completely unaware of his impending fate as Christmas approached. In the end, the cast did not have the heart to kill and stuff him. There is also a school of thought that Dustin was originally conceived as a turkey vulture, which would be consistent with his rather large and most un-turkeylike beak. However, as he became increasingly involved with Christmas pantomime shows in Dublin, and releasing CDs aimed at the Christmas market, he seems to have mutated into a turkey (the usual bird for Christmas dinner in Ireland) and most of those who remember his origins have now grown up. He is portrayed as a builder from Northside Dublin
. Dustin was spun-off to his own programme, DDN
, in the September 2005 re-launch (see above). Dustin also represented Ireland in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest.
the zebra was introduced in 2006, and has been very popular with the viewing community. He stood into the gap left by Ted (The Den)
, who is now bound for video game stardom. He is a white/pink zebra. He left recently and it is doubtful he will be returning.
Merely an offstage voice for many years, Snotser
Galligan was an extremely high-voiced member of Dustin's construction crew. Being left to the imagination of viewers for the longest time, he was finally seen in the closing seconds of the first episode of the "treehouse season". The rest of the cast (and the audience) had been awaiting his arrival for the entire episode, but finally Dustin, Socky and Ray gave up and went home, leaving the audience to think that Snotser would remain an unseen, offstage character. However, as the episode was just about to end, Snotser entered the now deserted studio apologising for being late. He was finally revealed to be a large, pink pig. Snotser was a fairly popular character and appeared on several tracks of Dustin's parody album "Faith of our Feathers". He is on hiatus
Socky (sometimes spelled "Soky") the sock monster was introduced not long before the departure of Zig and Zag, and is targeted towards the younger viewers. He is not ever-present
, although he is more commonly there during the early morning shows. He is a Sock Monster, who has old, used socks instead of hair. Viewers send him in socks as presents. His prized possession was his blue bucket. He has a cat, called Charly. He is nowadays the only puppet who frequently appears.
Not really a puppet, but a soft plush, Ted was a running in-joke between Dempsey/D'Arcy and Zig and Zag. He has appeared since, but rarely. Ted was a possessed stuffed panda
who rarely appeared, but every few shows a photo of him either in a famous location or attacking a famous person or a viewer would be shown. He would regularly appear in the studio, but only when the presenter was missing from the shot. Later, a running joke where Ray D'Arcy wrestled with him was introduced, which involved the (genuinely quite large) stuffed toy being hurled at D'Arcy (whether he was expecting it or not), who then had to wrestle with it and hurl it offscreen again. It usually seemed to genuinely be quite tiring for him - especially when the crew would wickedly throw Ted right back at him after he tossed him offscreen. Ray himself admitted on his radio show that Ted only tended to attack on days when he was hungover or not feeling the best. This always happened when Dustin was absent, and afterwards he wouldn't believe Ray that Ted had attacked him. Ted left after FBJ's departure, and appeared in the opening credits of iD.
Podge was an evil boy-like puppet, who in all his appearances caused mischief and instigated conspiracies. He would usually appear when only Zag was around, and fool him into some badness. Podge convinced Zag to listen to his instructions, often citing "All I want is a friend and a cuddle". Zag set up his own 5 minute segment named the Podge and Zag Show and play around with the puppet only to be interrupted by a mocking Zig. In later years, Podge terrorised the whole cast. One year he took over the whole show and fired them all, renaming the show "Bun's Bungalow" and promising wall-to-wall Echo Island all day, every day. At the end of the programme it was all shown to have been a horrible dream... or was it? Another year, at the end of Dustin's spoof presidential campaign, he fooled the cast into believing that Dustin had won the election. Podge was joined by his brother Rodge from this point onwards.
Podge's television career did not end when he left The Den. He later reappeared co-hosting his own show A Scare at Bedtime alongside Rodge. When that proved popular, the two were given their own chat show The Podge and Rodge Show set in their country home, Ballydung Manor, which further enhanced their popularity.
Simon and Stephen Trowel
The second most recent addition to the line of 'evil' puppets after Martin Duck, Simon Trowel (an obvious pun on Simon Cowell
) is a miserable "twin" of Dustin, though he insists he is a troll rather than a turkey. Most recently, before Halloween 2005, he kidnapped Dustin and tried to take his place, so he could steal the prizes available in the special Halloween pumpkin game. He made Francis and Socky drink a special brew that made them think he was Dustin. When they went off set, the TV screen at the back would show Dustin locked away, begging the viewers to help him get out and tell Francis and Socky that Simon Trowel's out there instead of him. On some occasions Simon was there when this happened, and he sneered at Dustin, declaring to the viewers that they would never get him out. Dustin eventually escaped however and it was actually reported on RTÉ News that he has been spotted running down the M50 the day he escaped.
However, Simon's 'character' now appears to have been rewritten, as on 2 October 2005 he appeared alongside Dustin in a sketch on Dustin's Daily News, in which they tried to get a rock music contract, and he was introduced to the record producer as being Dustin's cousin.
Simon Trowel's brother, Stephen, never appeared. Presumably of his shy, sneaky nature.
It's been suggested a picture of Simon Trowel be inserted
The latest 'evil' puppet, Martin Duck is a mysterious duck who began "hacking" into transmissions of Dustin's Daily News
from a makeshift studio in a garden shed since January 2006. He has some sort of grudge against Dustin, who declared him a wanted duck and began distributing "Wanted" posters to viewers who wrote, texted or e-mailed in to DDN
. Eventually, he was tracked down to a shed in Blackpool, Cork, believed to be owned by a P. Carleton and he went on the run. He soon continued his pirate broadcasts from a "secret" location, giving viewers cryptic clues as to where that was. A huge prize package was offered to the person who finally captured Martin, as he stepped up his campaign against Dustin by hijacking certain elements of his show, such as taking over one of the regional RTÉ studios to "play" the "Dustin's Masterbrain" game, and kidnapping Dustin's co-presenter, Sinéad and taking her place on one show. Finally in the final show of the season, on 29 April 2006
, he was found and forcibly removed from his underground hiding place in Limerick.
Soky's pet cat. He is known for his jokes and sense of humor.
He had a deathmatch with Zezi and Snoster.
They later appeared as heavenly angels. They declared they would be back.
Charlie lasts to the show with the Big 3
. Dustin, Soky, Zuppy but he only belongs to Socky.
- A number of regular (frequent but erratically timed) segments were dropped into the show a couple of times a week.
Draw with Don
Every week Don Conroy
comes into the studio to draw a picture (usually of an owl) or read from one of his children's books
. The Den
's presenter would attempt to mimic Don's style on his own sketchpad but would usually be unsuccessful in his attempts. Towards the end of the segment Don would show the viewers some of the drawings that had been sent into him since the previous week. Don has had connections with The Den
virtually every week since the show started, and continues as part of The Club
today, only now it is called The Art of Don
Once a month, and at times of interesting astronomical events, a representative of Astronomy Ireland
would come in and talk about the state of the stars, or the event occurring, and how to view it. This got moved over to iD
), as it was decided it appealed to an older audience.
The Yes-No Game Show
Twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, a child would take part in this, in which he/she had to answer various questions about themselves without using the words "Yes" or "No". If they lasted long enough, they won several prizes, plus a Yes-No Game Show
winners' mug. If they said "Yes" or "No" they got all the prizes anyway, except for the mug. It ran from roughly 1995 to 1998. It was later part of Dustin's Daily News
, running for a few weeks at a time before a break.
The Toy Grand Prix
At the end of some seasons there would be a toy grand prix involving wind-up and electric toys, which would walk/crawl/roll down a track that was approx 80cm long, dustin would appear in a box in a corner, allegedly at the race in Monte Carlo or other far flung destinations, but eventually would be seen in an actual box in the corner. Peter Collins
of RTÉ Sport, would commentate on the final race on Friday afternoons.
Races would last less than 10 seconds, but instant replay/slow motion would be used.
There were various quizzes on The Den
over the years, including:
- The Furry Green Telly Quiz
- The Furry Blue Telly Quiz
- The Big Bus Quiz
- Quiz Stream
When the Furry Green Telly Quiz "stopped", there was a running gag that Dustin was working on a new quiz which promised to be bigger and better. The new quiz was kept under wraps and hidden under a blanket at the back of the studio. Finally, after much anticipation, Dustin proudly unveiled the new game... the Furry Blue Telly Quiz.
Except for Quiz Stream, these quizzes were very easy and non-competitive, and the host would usually give hints. In Quiz Stream, the competition currently running, two teams of three boys or three girls face each other. The first to answer 6 questions correctly (spelling out S-T-R-E-A-M in lights) wins.
The shows format would be changed only 4 times a year during the Dempsey/D'Arcy years, although it might be slightly altered (moved to RTÉ 1
and shortened slightly) during major sporting events. It has become more irregular since.
St. Patrick's Day
Every few years, either the presenter, Zig and Zag, Dustin, Soky & Charlie or all of them would go somewhere else for the St. Patrick's Day
Parade, usually New York
. This would mean the show was off-air a few days either side of the day, to give the cast a holiday
The Den would go off-air for two weeks in the middle of summer, after which it would return with the cast in some exotic location. If a major event was occurring at the time, they would be at it - for example Italia 90
and the 1996 Olympics
However, another running joke was that they would go to Leitrim, a county which Dustin despised completely, and which he held harsh opinions about. He would never believe they were there, even with County Councillors assuring him they were.
Between 1996 and 1997, The Swamp took The Den's place as a weekday strand during the summer. Mossy Fergeson, Rory and Rasher Bacon, a puppet, presented the show. The Swamp took place in a chipvan and a shop where the cast would show. The cast were involved in plots, such as saving Rasher from an eagle and getting rid of a vampire. Skelly, a talking skeleton, made several guest appearances on the show. In 1997–1998, The Swamp was aired on Saturdays and Sundays, while The Den was broadcast on weekdays. Although The Swamp proved to be successful, RTÉ cancelled the show in May 1998, much to the disappointment of its fans.
Nowadays, The Den remains on air during the summer. However, there are often either replacement presenters and/or weeks when there is no live presentation.
night the programme would continue till 21:15, usually showing repeats of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
and a light-hearted "scary" movie. The 15:00 - 18:00 show was usually filmed on location, for example, at an ancient castle.
On Christmas Day
the show would start at around 06:00 and continue until 13:00. The puppets would talk about the toys they got, and Christmas-themed cartoons would be shown.
During December, the show would go off air for a few days, during which the Christmas show would be filmed. This almost always involved a trip to Lapland and an improbable but fun plot in which the puppets had to save Christmas somehow, usually having to rescue Santa. news reader Vere Wynne-Jones would often be given a cameo role reading a story about Zig and Zag (zig was given one last chance by santa to be good, or Christmas would be cancelled), or the strange disappearance of Santa. This programme would be given a prominent Christmas Day prime time slot on RTÉ 1 One such Christmas programme managed to coincide with one of the most important events of the twentieth century. In December 1991, the Den crew went to film their special in Moscow, which was perfectly calm, as one would expect for a children's Christmas special. Of course, on Christmas Day, as the programme was being broadcast, the Soviet Union had just collapsed, with its remaining contingent states declaring independence.
Often, children with serious illnesses would be brought along with the cast, as an extension of their "Make a Wish" programme.
Occasionally there would be random days of no programming, if the presenter or the puppeteers wanted a day off, but children's movies would be brought out, and The Den's DOG Tag would remain. It is the only TV programme (besides the news) to be broadcast live around Ireland on Christmas Day.