Saturday 18 November 2017

Radio: Here's a good question -- Why did RTÉ ever let Pat Kenny go?

New era: Pat Kenny, who moved to Newstalk from RTE this year. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography
New era: Pat Kenny, who moved to Newstalk from RTE this year. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

'Is John Nolan a winner . . . or a loser?" The question opens They Didn't Suit You, a clever, gently amusing documentary (Radio 1, Saturday 2pm).

You could argue that the quiz is the true Irish passion. We love answering on a wide range of subjects, the more arcane the better. Deficiency in general knowledge is considered worse than treason; indeed, it is a kind of treason.

Yet, there's a supercilious attitude towards serious quiz-buffs: such nerds, we think, are so much less cool than us. Brendan Daly's documentary explored this tension, and the everlasting appeal of quizzes.

We follow quiz addict John Nolan: the Mayoman runs them on his local station, dedicates a website to them, enters them himself. Thus Daly followed Nolan to the world's biggest table-quiz, the European Quizzing Championships in Liverpool, where he captains an Irish team.

What I liked most about They Didn't Suit You was that it was a documentary, in the purest sense. There was no judgment, no editorialising, in any direction, for or against: Daly simply recorded and presented it to us.

There is something undeniably nerdish about being mad into quizzes, but the programme didn't sneer at that. There's also something endearing about these folks, and the show didn't obviously take that standpoint either.

Affectionate and empathetic, certainly, but properly, professionally detached too. A fine insight into a quirky, intriguing sub-culture.

Now here's a question: in what year was €50m of taxpayers' money blown on "consultants"? Trick question: that could have been any year.

As it happens, we're talking about Irish Water, but it could be anything, couldn't it? The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 10am-12.30pm) was trying to untangle the whole mess with Pat Leahy of the Business Post, when PK drolly remarked: "Why two committee hearings? Will they be trying to gazump each other with the brilliance of their questions?"

He's still got it -- still has the energy, passion and curiosity of someone half his age. I find it hard to maintain interest in these dreary controversies for 30 seconds; Pat's been doing it for 40 years, and his enthusiasm never feels forced or fake.

Add the intelligence, understanding and lucid precision, and you realise why such a big deal was made over last summer's transfer.


Irish Independent

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