Radio review: The Rising is all over bar the shouting
It's hard to tell whether callers on Dublin FM104's Phoneshow are genuine or just, for want of a more vulgar expression, taking the mickey. At times it feels as if the whole thing may be one big post-modernist joke on the listeners.
Last Tuesday, a woman called in, claiming to be a resident of Beaumont, objecting to the presence of social housing in the area and explaining why she didn't want anyone on benefits living near her. "They're breeding like rabbits, there's not a wedding ring between them, half of them are gay, the other half don't know what they are . . . I don't like black people either." Whether real or not, she performed her allotted function in the nightly pantomime, as other callers hit the phones to shout at her: "You're an absolute f***ing snob, you're an uptight b**** who needs taken down a peg or two."
There then followed the usual complaints about bad language, and the equally traditional washing of the hands from ringmaster Chris Barry: "Don't blame me, these are people's opinions." Then it was on to the next manufactured row.
Good radio doesn't have to be about conflict. Writer and TV producer Maia Dunphy was the guest on this week's "Top Five Books" section of Newstalk's Sunday Show. For half-an-hour, presenter Shane Coleman talked to her about Hemingway, history, childhood memories, the Mafia.
Only near the end did Dunphy notice that she hadn't chosen any books by female authors; but that's the joy of this slot, it's not about throwing shapes or making statements, it's just about the books people love, rather than, in Coleman's words, "the ones none of us have read, unless you're Fintan O'Toole".
To be fair to the Irish Times man, he did choose Just William as one of his favourite books when he was on the show a while ago. It wasn't all Shakespeare and Tolstoy . . . though yes, he picked them too.
Futureproof, also on Newstalk, is equally engaging - last week asking whether unicorns were ever real (the answer being yes, but they weren't actually unicorns, so, er, no) - but its raison d'etre is increasingly diluted as science stories infiltrate the daily talk shows.
Sean Moncrieff never sounds more pleased with himself than when he has some American professor on the other end of the line chatting about dinosaurs or DNA. On last week's Moncrieff, it was a researcher who'd discovered that "The Not Face" (Google it for examples) is the one common facial expression that all races and cultures share in common.
The only nagging question is whether all this information is actually making us dumber rather than smarter as we drown under a tidal wave of trivia and titbits.
Finally, "Gift Grub" on Today FM's Ian Dempsey Show argued that the country had reached "peak 1916", as "Michael D" himself declared: "I've already climaxed four times in the last five speeches I've made. I don't think I'm capable of doing another solemn face." Naughty, but nice.