Sunday 25 September 2016

Radio review: When two 'I's are not better than none

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 18/07/2016 | 02:30

Ray D'Arcy
Ray D'Arcy

The three programmes share a common DNA, but there are significant differences between them all the same. The Ryan Tubridy Show goes heavier on (often quite downbeat) human interest stories; The Ray D'Arcy Show is more willing to tackle big political subjects, albeit with a personal slant; The Anton Savage Show is lighter in tone than either.

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But the big differences among the Troika of Irish daytime radio is their willingness or otherwise to shoehorn themselves into the conversation.

D'Arcy is the biggest offender. On Tuesday, a conversation with Jason Byrne about how the Irish comic spent his childhood holidays morphed into an anecdote about Ray playing "spin the bottle" in a field next to his school.

An interview with English journalist Miranda Sawyer about her growing awareness of mortality as she hits middle age was also juxtaposed with some random musings on the fact that both of them were keen gymnasts in their younger days, which was no doubt fascinating for them, but not exactly germane to the theme. "Get a room," one unimpressed listener texted in.

Tubridy is less pushy about throwing his own oar into each debate, though he does have a persistent fixation with the ills of social media. Interviewing the author of a book about growing up online last week, his distaste for that "fake and inauthentic" world was again palpable.

He even got in a dig at smartphones the next day when talking to Irish author Liz Nugent about her new book Lying In Wait, though his genuine enthusiasm for reading was obvious throughout.

Anton Savage is the most old-school of the three, and his interviews are the better for it. Perhaps it's this apparent lack of interest in being a 'personality' that explains why he's still not as well-known or appreciated as the other two.

Dublin Talks on 98FM, meanwhile, sounds increasingly like an elaborate piece of performance art, designed solely to provoke listeners into becoming part of it.

Tuesday's bun fight centred on a young man suffering from panic attacks and anxiety who was allegedly spending every day in the pub, despite being on benefits.

"Who doesn't suffer pressure?" went one call. "If we all ran to the doctor and started whinging, no one would go to work." Steve agreed. "These people… need a good kick up the arse. Get them off the disability. They're lazy, lazy, lazy b******s".

Then there was another of 98FM's traditional callers with inner city Dublin accents straight out of Central Casting, who called in to admit that he was doing the same, saying: "I'm faking it."

If it all sounds too good to be true some nights, there's still something refreshing about this explosion of offensiveness in an age when so many broadcasters have retreated timidly from controversy for fear of upsetting the perennially affronted in their 'safe spaces'.

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