Artist's impression of the Titanic striking the iceberg on 15 April 1912 - the new RTÉ drama doc will focus on the workers below-deck. Topham Picturepoint/PA Images

'Undercover Bishop' and major Titanic drama-doc top RTÉ new season

The national broadcaster has released details of new productions expected to air this spring – including €1.5m dramatisation of what happened ‘below deck’ on the Titanic.

A (SO FAR) UNIDENTIFIED Irish Catholic bishop is to go “undercover” for a two-part programme to be aired on RTÉ in the next few months.

An RTÉ spokesperson told that the name of the bishop could not yet be disclosed because the programme had not yet been completed. A press release detailing upcoming shows to be broadcast on the national broadcaster includes ‘Undercover Bishop’ in its religious programming schedule. The release describes it as:

In a 2-part Would You Believe? Special our Undercover Bishop asks searching questions about what the Church – and what a Bishop – is for, as one Irish bishop dispenses with the deference-inducing trappings of his job to mix with people unawares.

As well as that intriguing offering, RTÉ is to broadcast a major new drama documentary to mark the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Saving The Titanic is an international co-production between the Irish production company Tile Films and the German broadcaster ZDF, with funding from RTÉ, the Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The docu-drama – which took €1.5m to make – takes a new angle on the 1912 tragedy by focusing on events below deck on the night of the sinking, dramatising the stories of the boilermen, the engineers and the other workers who worked furiously – and ultimately fruitlessly – to save the Titanic. Instead of focusing on the decisions made on the bridge and on the officer class, the doc will highlight the “personal rivalries and sectarian differences” of those in the belly of the ship, according to an RTÉ spokesperson.

The programme director is Maurice Sweeney, who is one of Ireland’s most respected documentary-makers. Previous works of his include Cromwell in Ireland, Flann O’Brien: The Lives of Brian, The Forgotten Irish and Michéal: The Sound of Sunday.

Here are some of the other programmes due to be broadcast on RTÉ before the end of April:


  • Ireland Outside The Euro? – “a major new documentary looks at what life after the Euro might look like”.
  • Into the Light: The Battles that Shaped Our TV (working title) – “tracing how RTÉ’s confrontations with Government, the Church and other powerful forces have shaped our television”. (part of the TV50 programming)
  • Living Colour – a documentary on an artists’ collective in Co Kilkenny “where the focus is on the artists’ abilities rather than their special needs”.
  • Nomads No More – two US anthropologists who lived with and studied the Travelling community in Ireland 40 years ago return to see where they are now.
  • The Nurse – series following community and public health nurses.
  • MND and Me – RTÉ sports presenter Colm Murray on his determination to find a cure for his motor neurone disease.
  • An untitled documentary on the late writer and journalist Nuala O Faolain.

Returning… Dragon’s Den, Ear To The Ground, Crime Call, 21st Century Child, The Business (with George Lee)


  • Who Knows Ireland Best? – a new quiz show hosted by Derek Mooney based on a specially-commissioned survey of the nation.
  • Reality Bites – a six-part series looking at sections of Irish life “from our bedtime habits to distressed property auctions to the Irish rap scene”.

Returning… Mrs Brown’s Boys, Winning Streak (with Geri Maye standing alongside Marty Whelan), The Savage Eye, The Social, Other Voices, Republic of Telly.


  • Dead Money – follows the work of ‘heir hunters’ who track down the next-of-kin of people who died intestate (without a will) to pass on unexpected inheritances.

Returning… The Consumer Show, Dirty Old Towns (Diarmuid Gavin trying to regenerate towns around Ireland), At Your Service, The Zoo, Super Garden.


  • The Works – new arts magazine presented by John Kelly.
  • Ballymun Lullaby – the recent cinema-released documentary following a music teacher’s efforts to create a music collective among his students in a Ballymun school.
  • Profiles of Edna O’Brien and Finbar Furey.
  • Masterpiece: Ireland’s Most-Loved Painting – a programme which kicks off a five-week campaign to find the nation’s favourite painting.

Irish language

  • Fibín – Sétanta in the City – “follows the creative collaboration and the transfer of a new play by Paul Mercier from the old schoolhouse in Cois Fharraige to a sell-out run in The Peacock in Dublin”.
  • Aerphort – “new series looking at some of the stories behind the departure gates at our airports”.

Returning… Scannal


Nothing new here exactly – Fair City and Raw are mentioned but also the return of Storyland, the competition which allows viewers to vote online for pilots of new dramas.


  • The aforementioned Undercover Bishop.

Returning… The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne (Bob Geldof, Richard Branson and Mary Byrne are among the interviewees), and Would You Believe?


  • Rugby – RBS Six Nation; Rabodirect Pro 12 rugby; Against the Head; Ulster Bank League Final
  • Football – Champions League knockour round and quarter final action; Premier Soccer Saturday and Sunday; highlights of Rep of Ireland v Czech Republic friendly (RTÉ only has rights to Ireland competitive games); Airtricity League Live; 3 FAI International Football Awards
  • Racing from Leopardstown, Fairyhouse, Punchestown and Cheltenham
  • GAA – National Football League and National Hurling League highlights in League Sunday
  • Others – coverage of Amateur Boxing Championships, Irish Indoor Athletics, Great Ireland Run, Hockey Cup Finals.

Meanwhile, TV3 today announced that it will release its plans for its spring schedule on Thursday, 26 January.

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