Darragh McManus: How do you solve a problem like 2FM Breakfast Slot?
Hector is gone from 2FM. He might have “cut through the traffic handily enough” with his broadsword in that funny, clever ad for the station, but he never really managed to slay the beast that is 2FM’s breakfast slot.
It was once an annoyance, then a problem; now it’s an ongoing critical situation. Since Ian Dempsey jumped ship for Today FM (15 years ago, if you can believe it), 2FM has struggled in the early mornings.
Each successive incarnation has been hobbled by a series of misjudgements, missteps and wrong notes, both in terms of format and, especially, choice of presenter. And guess what, they’ve got to do it all again in the New Year…
Four who really didn’t work:
1. Rick O’Shea and Ruth Scott (2005): not the most awful show ever aired on a pop music station, but not much good either. Nothing special about it; indeed, it’s hard now to remember any aspect at all. Only lasted six months.
2. Marty Whelan (2005-07): he may be a legend of Irish broadcasting, and an amiable old smoothie to boot, but Marty was all wrong for 2FM. He's a Radio 1/Lyric kind of guy.
3. Colm and Jim-Jim (2007-2010): probably the worst incarnation of the lot. So witless that it gave witlessness a bad name. The “jokes” about Barack Obama being assassinated were the worst of a terrible bunch.
4. Hector Ó hEochagáin (2010-13): too noisy, too manic, too much for that hour of the morning. And while obviously a nice chap, Hector’s “up ya boyo” laddishness was surely alienating to a female listenership. And half the men.
And how to prevent a repeat:
1. Don’t give the job to Ryan Tubridy.
That’s the easy solution, the automatic response, and you know what? He’d probably do a fine job. But don’t just take the predictable route – that’s been part of the problem for 2FM, and one reason why the station feels jaded and uninspired.
2. Take a chance on an unknown.
Scour the provincial and urban independent stations for talent – they’re out there. And not the comparable breakfast slot: that, in all likelihood, has been filled by Colm and Jim-Jim types around the country. Check out the late-night talk-shows, left-field music programmes. Be inventive. Think, as they say, outside the box.
3. Or if your nerve fails, at least an unexpected choice.
Someone with experience but who doesn’t feel as much part of the RTE furniture as the big mast in Montrose. Someone like Eoghan McDermott, who’s proven his chops on UK radio, is reasonably well-known here through TV work, and seems to have some talent.
4. And finally…ask Oliver Callan to provide more funny stuff.
Gift Grub was pretty much what made Ian Dempsey’s show in the early years, and that hasn’t been good for years.