The Den (television)

The Den (television)
The Den
Launched September 29 , 1986
Closed September 19, 2010
Owned by Raidió Teilifís Éireann
Picture format PAL I standard
Audience share 8.5% (October 2009, AGB Nielsen)
Country Ireland
Language English
Broadcast area Ireland
Northern Ireland
Worldwide online
Headquarters Montrose, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Formerly called Dempsey's Den (1986–90)
Den TV (occasianally between 1990 and 1997)
Den2(1997–2002)The Den(2002–2010)
Replaced by RTÉjr
Sister channel(s) RTÉ One, RTÉ Two
Irish analogue Normally tuned to 2 but also: 5 historical openings of NI and IRL channels, or 6 depending on preference
Irish digital Mux 1
SCTV Digital Channel 102
Sky Ireland Channel 102 (IRL)
Channel 162 (NI)
UPC Ireland Channel 102 & 601
Virgin Media (UK) Channel 876 (NI only)
Magnet Entertainment Channel 102
Smart Vision
The Den
Also known as Dempsey's Den (1986–90)
Den TV (occasianally between 1990 and 1997)
Genre Children's television
Presented by Ian Dempsey (1986–90)
Ray D'Arcy (1990–99)
Damien McCaul (1999–2004)
Francis Boylan, Jr. (2003–05)
Kathryn McKiernan (2005–08)
Country of origin Republic of Ireland
Language(s) English
No. of episodes Over 5,000
Production company(s) RTÉ
Original channel RTÉ Two (since Sept 1988)
RTÉ One (1986–88)
First shown in 29 September, 1986
Original run – 19 September 2010.
Related shows Dustin's Daily News, Jo Maxi, TTV, iD Two, Two Tube, A Scare at Bedtime, The Podge and Rodge Show, ICE
External links

The Den was the brand of the children's television strand on Irish public broadcaster RTÉ Two. It first broadcast on September 29, 1986 on RTÉ One, before moving to RTÉ Two (previously Network 2) in September 1988. The strand began to diversify throughout the late 1990s and the 2000s.

In mid-2010, RTÉ Television announced an overhaul of all young people's programming, especially as Ireland moves towards digital terrestrial television in autumn 2010.[1] This overhaul took place on September 20, 2010 effectively replacing The Den branding to incorporate two new strands RTÉjr and TRTÉ.[2]


The Den Timeline

The Den was presented by a number of well-known names in Ireland, including Ian Dempsey and Ray D'Arcy, both of whom now present morning shows with the radio station Today FM. The Den was also responsible for introducing a number of anthropomorphic characters to Irish culture, such as Zig and Zag, Podge and Rodge and Dustin the Turkey. These have gone on to have highly successful careers in a vast array of areas; Zig and Zag transferred to Channel 4 and are currently promoting their own DVD, Best Bitz From Back Den, Podge and Rodge possess a highly successful late-night chat show and Dustin achieved global recognition in 2008 when he represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The Den had a number of former names including; Dempsey's Den, Den TV and Den2. The strand aired from 06:00 to 17:30 each weekday, with the brand also being used on weekend mornings. It received a complete makeover, with a change in format and a brand new visual identity, on Saturday 17 September 2005.

As well as airing on RTÉ Two, The Den has its own electronic programme guide placement on UPC Ireland, channel 601.

The Den had a reputation for airing many new episodes of shows such as Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Totally Spies!, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. before any other network in Europe.

As part of the new RTÉ Season for 2010/11 'The Den' name was scrapped and replaced by two age specific brands.[3] The Den and Den Tots were replaced by TRTÉ and RTÉjr respectively.[4]

2005 to 2010

Emma O'Driscoll and Soky on Den Tots.

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 look graphics were designed by Dunning Elley Joans (now Dunning Penny Joans). 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 james reilly, Charly and Socky 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, all the characters that achieved fame on the show (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 2008, Wakey Wakey, The Club and DDN were axed. 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 an announcer now says what is on next during the new "Now Next Later" graphics which have been given a new look in 2009. Dustin the Turkey now presents The Once a Week Show with co-host Sinéad Ni Churnain.


The Den began in 1986 as Dempsey's Den, it was fronted by Ian Dempsey for many years, and ran from 16:00 to 18:00 every weekday, broadcasting originally on RTÉ 1 after Live at Three, before switching to Network 2 with an additional hour 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 (Jo Maxi) 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 1998, when he was replaced by Damien McCaul. Francis Boylan, Jr. took over the reins in 2003. 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 2003, The Den introduced a daily news programme for children, news2day, somewhat similar to the BBC's Newsround .

When Ray, Zig and Zag were joined by President of Ireland Mary Robinson, James Reilly, seen here in an early appearance, caused controversy by suggesting the President had smelly feet.

Classic Format

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.

Damien McCaul and Dustin the Turkey on Den2 following the 1998 relaunch.


Ciara Carroll was The Den assistant during the Ray D'Arcy years. She would come in and out of the studio to announce new competitions for the viewers and would also give feedback from behind the camera, she could often be heard laughing in the background and being blamed for farts by Zig and Zag. She would also appear in many of the other segments throughout the day. During the Ian Dempsey years The Den assistant was Celine, she would go on to present Jo Maxi when Ray D'Arcy left that show to take over from Ian Dempsey. During the Damien McCaul era Geri Maye and Emma Ledden appeared as assistants to the show, however both went on to present other segments such as Pop Gossip.

1998 re-launch

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 2003 was followed by a youth strand, iD (which was renamed iD Two in late 2004, and became TTV in September 2005). Den 2 ran from 07:35 until 17:00 and iD/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. The morning section was referred to as Den AM (aka Socky's Big Little Morning Show), which was presented by Geri Maye (who was for a time engaged to former presenter of The Den, Ray D'Arcy[5]) until early 2005. The traditional afternoon slot was presented by Damien McCaul from 1998 (Francis Boylan, Jr. replaced him in September 2003, until June 2005). The strand re-adopted The Den name in 2002 upon McCaul's absence. Prominent sports figure and economist turned children's TV star Denis Cavanagh also made regular appearances on the show, his down to earth wit and diamond personality clear for all to see. Whilst the programme had changed, much of its original spirit still remained: there were still quizzes, the Birthday scroller still existed, and Dustin, Socky, Zuppy and Snotzer remained.

Echo Island

Main article: Echo Island

A "children's magazine" show, along the lines of Blue Peter, Echo Island first aired in 1994. It ran three days a week for the first season, adding an extra programme at the start of the second season in September 1995, with two in English and the other two in Irish language. This was later renamed "Echo" in 1999 (for its final season). Original hosts were Derek Mooney and Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh. Comedian Dara Ó Briain, who has since become well-known outside Ireland, spent most of his RTÉ career on this show from 1995. Carrie Crowley joined the show in 1996, before going on to present the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997.


Main article: Jo Maxi

"JMTV" or "Jo Maxi" 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.


Presenter Term of office
Ian Dempsey 1986–1990
Ray D'Arcy 1990–1998
Damien McCaul 1998–2003
Francis Boylan, Jnr. 2003–2005
Kathryn McKiernan 2005-2008

currently no presenter (2008–present)



Regular sections

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.[6]

Astronomy Ireland

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 (now TTV), 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 80 cm 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.

Pop music news segment

Simon Young, a former DJ with RTÉ 2fm, used to present a weekly pop music news chat with Dempsey and D'Arcy. Emma Ledden took over this segment in the mid-1990s, it was from here she was able to move to MTV Europe in the late 1990s.

A Bedtime Story and The Rotten Apple Club

On certain occasions Zig and Zag would present the final part of the show as A Bedtime Story, Zag would read a fairytale, often getting it wrong, while Zig would act out all the parts in the background often getting his ques wrong. Generally it would end with Zig giving up and saying goodbye to the viewers. Later this was replaced by the Rotten Apple Club which was hosted "live from New York", Zag would tell a number of very bad jokes as a stand up artist, sing a few songs badly with the help of his pianist, Ray D'Arcy and Ciara Carroll served people in the background as a waiter and waitress in theRotten Apple Club and Zig would often get in the way of the act.


Ciara Carroll was The Den assistant during the Ray D'Arcy years she would come in and out of the studio to announce new competitions for the viewers and would also give feedback from behind the camera, she could often be heard laughing in the background and being blamed for farts by Zig and Zag. She would also appear in many of the other segments throughout the day. During the Ian Dempsey years The Den assistant was Celine, she would go on to present Jo Maxi when Ray D'Arcy left that show to take over from Ian Dempsey.


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 Saint 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.


On Halloween 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.


The Christmas period is noted for having two special shows, one bizarrely overdramatic show on Christmas Eve and another slightly more realistic and reasonable show on Christmas Day[7]

During December, The Den would go off air for a few days, during which the Christmas show (to be broadcast on Christmas Eve) 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. Often, children with serious illnesses would be brought along with the cast, as an extension of their Make a Wish programme. The elves would be shown at work as they prepared for Santa's Big Night and Socky might feed the reindeer with carrots. On one occasion the evil Podge (now a reformed individual and highly successful chat show co-host) attempted to thwart Santa and jeopardise Christmas by locking Santa into a large wooden cabinet in his own house. Ray D'Arcy and a string of friends very conveniently happened upon the scene just as time was running out and Santa was able to scuttle off to his workshops to save Christmas. On another occasion the problem as a depressed Rudoph, whose nose had lost its legendary shine, thus giving Santa the headache of having no method of finding his way through the night sky. In the earlier days, the RTÉ newsreader Vere Wynne-Jones would often be given a cameo role reading a mock newsflash about Zig and Zag (Zig was given one last chance by Santa to be good one year, or Christmas would be cancelled), or the strange disappearance of Santa.

A memorable Christmas under presenter Damien McCaul had him, Socky and Dustin travel to New York in search of a Mr. Micro Blue Bucket with Removable Arms, a present that Socky desired but which would not be available in Ireland until the following March.[8] After persistently demanding that Socky be granted this gift and searching through the internet (overcoming Derek Davis's diet tips and Pat Kenny's guide on how to be "an insufferable bore"), Dustin discovered that 100 Mr. Micro Blue Bucket action figures would be delivered to F.A.O. Swarz, the largest toy store in the world located in Manhattan, New York, on Christmas Eve (the following morning). He then persuaded Damien to bring himself and Socky there instead of surrendering to Damien's preferred option of buying LEGO for Socky. Despite Damian explaining that there was no way they could fly to New York with so little time left, they were soon inside F.A.O. Swarz. The naive but kind-hearted Socky was exuberant, as Dustin pointed out Laa-Laa the Teletubby, and wanted to find presents for his Mammy, Geri Maye, his best friend, Thomas, and "all the boys and girls in playschool". Despite Socky being a preschooler, Damian and Dustin allowed him to wander off in the busy store, whilst they went in search of Mr. Micro Blue Bucket, Dustin mistaking a Furby for Anne Doyle along the way.[9]

The Christmas special would be given a 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. By Christmas Day, as the programme was being broadcast, the Soviet Union had managed to just conveniently collapse into chaos, with its remaining contingent states declaring independence.

Each Christmas Day the show would traditionally start at around 06:00 and continue until 13:00. The first hour of this, it was later revealed, would be recorded and the rest would go out live.[10] Christmas-themed cartoons would be shown and the puppets would talk about the toys they had received from Santa, who would have usually just been saved by the gang the day before. They would always somehow arrive back in Ireland faster than 1990s (and even modern) physics would permit.

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. The Den is the only TV programme (besides the news) to be broadcast live around Ireland on Christmas Day.

The Den radio reunion

On 14 November 2008, a special edition of Today FM's The Ray D'Arcy Show was broadcast live from Vicar Street, Dublin. It reflected on the formative years of The Den from 1986-1994 in front of a live audience who shared their memories.[11] Listeners were also invited to contribute and the show was even video-streamed live online. D'Arcy was not the only original member of the team present; Zig and Zag featured heavily as they were promoting their new DVD Best Bitz From Back Den, Don Conroy put in an appearance to instruct D'Arcy how to draw a Barn Owl, Ian Dempsey turned up later (he had been presenting his breakfast show from the Today FM studios directly beforehand), a 4 ft Ted attacked D'Arcy as Zig and Zag cheered him on with the audience, and, to Zig and Zag's disgust, Dustin made a cameo appearance toward the end.

List of TV Shows and Movies on the Den

Along with all the popular national children's shows (like ICE, ROY, Kazoo and many more...), 'The Den' continues to make a huge impact of unrivaled home produced programmes and kids movies, like The Shrinks, On The Block, Roman Mysteries, and from the makers of Wallace and Gromit, comes Timmy Time by Aardman, Eye2Eye, Quizone, Aisling's Summer Diary and T.O.A.S.T, including Den Tots and all the favourites from around the world.

See also

Digital Children's Channel

RTE launched a dedicated children's television station called RTEjr on the 26th May 2011 to coincide with the launch of Saorview, Ireland's DTT service which was also launched on the same day.[12][13] The channel mainly rebroadcasts programmes that are already shown on the RTEjr strand on RTE Two however there are some other children's programmes broadcast on the channel. It is currently only available on channel 7 on Saorview however it is expected to be available on Sky and UPC digital platforms in the future.


External links

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