Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Den (television)
The Den is a daily children's television show on RTÉ Two in Ireland. Started in the 1980s as Dempsey's Den, it was fronted by Ian Dempsey for many years, and ran from 3 PM to 6 PM every weekday. 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 the early 1990s, Ian Dempsey was replaced by Ray D'Arcy, who presented the show until 1999, when he was replaced by an ever changing collection of younger RTÉ presenters. Over this time, the programme dropped the leading "Dempseys", and alternated between the names The Den and Den TV. Following the rebrand of Network 2 to N2 in 1997, Den TV became "Den 2" but this reverted to "The Den" in 2002.
The format of the show changed very little during Dempsey and D'Arcy's years - it would start at 3PM 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, then 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 to this day presented from a studio - which has been a treehouse, chipvan and 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.
The show goes out live, as was demonstrated all too well in 1990 when the adbreak ended early, with the shot coming back to Zig and Zag punting a Bosco puppet around and the puppeteers shouting "Bosco is a bollox".
After Ray D'Arcy' left the programme, the format changed significantly. The Christmas show was dropped, an hour in the morning before school time was added, presented by a different presenter, with only Socky from the puppets.
The hours gradually swelled, and The Den was split into two programmes - The Den and iD Two. The Den runs from 7:35 AM until 5 PM and iD Two runs from 5 PM until 7 PM. Much of the time during the day, there are no continuity links. The Den is much more like a TV station of its own now, with its own trailers and presentation. There are two sections of the programme which do have presentation - "Den AM" (aka "Socky's Big Little Morning Show") in the mornings, which is presented by Geri Maye (for a time engaged to former presenter Ray D'Arcy), and the traditional afternoon slot, which is now presented by Francis Boylan Jr.
While the programme has changed heavily, much of its original spirt still remains - there are still quizzes, the Birthday scroller still exists, and there are still puppets.
Some of the original programming shown during The Den has managed to stand up on its own as a separate programme, or has otherwise been memorable
Not really part of The Den, Jo Maxi (later called JMTV) was a mainly music based show aimed at adolescents. It was shown directly after The Den had ended, but was integrated into the show by the delayed displaying of The Dens copyright notice until after it had ended.
One of the most successful parts of the programme has been its puppets. They are listed below in order of importance, but only Dustin, Snotser, Socky and Zuppy are still with the show.
Zig, Zag and Zuppy
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 succesful 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 Zags hair.
They had a dog called Zuppy , who rarely appeared in the programme, but was used more in the comic books.
Zig and Zag left for a presenting job on Channel 4's The Big Breakfast, whereas Zuppy and Dustin remained, and were joined by a sock-monster called Socky . After a failed children's show on ITV, they returned to Ireland to host 2-phat , a music-quiz show along with Ray D'Arcy. Two running gags in this show were the two puppets' infatuation with regular character Velcro Girl, and Zig's inability to stop saying "Darcy's Arse!".
Dustin and Snotser
Another regular on the programme, from the start right up until now has been Dustin the Turkey. He is portrayed as a builder, and his "Builders Mate", a pig called Snotser occasionally appears. They are both meant to be from the Northside Dublin.
Socky was introduced after the departure of Zig and Zag, and is targeted towards the younger viewer. Unlike the other puppets, 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.
Ted was a running in-joke between Dempsey/D'Arcy and Zig and Zag. He has appeared since, but rarely. Ted was a posessed 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.
Podge was an evil boy-like puppet, who in all his appearances caused mischief and instigated conspiracies. He would usually appear when only Zig was around, and fool him into some badness. Podge later reappeared co-hosting his own show "A Scare at Bedtime" with a similar puppet named Rodge. For all the Dastardly Duo's details, see: Podge and Rodge.
A number of regular (as in frequent but erratically timed) segments were dropped into the show a couple of times a week
Draw with Don
Weekly, Don Conroy will come into the studio and draw a picture or read from one of his childrens books. This has occurred virtually every week since the show started
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 shows format would be changed only 4 times a year during the Dempsey/D'Arcy years, although it might be minorly altered (moved to RTE 1 and shortened slightly) during major sporting events. It has become more irregular since.
St. Patricks Day
Every few years, either the presenter, Zig and Zag, Dustin, or all of them would go somewhere else for the St. Patricks 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.
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.
On Christmas day the show would start at around 6 AM and continue until 1 PM. The puppets would talk about the toys they got, and Christmas-themed cartoons would be shown.
During December, the show would go offair for a few days, during which the Christmas show would be filmed. This almost always involved a trip to Lapland and an improbably but fun plot in which the puppets had to save Christmas somehow, usually having to rescue Santa.
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 childrens movies would be brought out, and The Den's DOG Tag would remain.
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