Friday 15 November 2019

A perkiness-free zone is just the tonic for weekends

 

Pat Kenny
Pat Kenny

Damian Corless

The trouble with Radio 1's crack-of-dawn slot, going back many years and many presenters, is that when the host says "and in the next hour we'll have this crooner and that band", you can fairly much guess what's coming. Often it'll be the artist's signature tune, and if not, you can anticipate something off-the-peg and obvious.

Lilian Smith never does off-the-peg and obvious. Every item is fastidiously hand-picked for an imagined listener of taste and discrimination. Her The Weekend on One (Radio 1, Sat-Sun 6am) is the perfect way to ease into the day.

Smith confers the blessings of an encyclopaedic knowledge and the broadest Catholic tastes, though no folk mass stuff. On Sunday, she flitted harmoniously from Jelly Roll Morton to The Paragons' original of 'The Tide is High' and on to Blondie's sublime '(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear'. This is genre fluid radio at its most seamless.

Smith's tone is pitch perfect for the snoozy waking hours, closer in register to bleary than chirpy. Unlike its weekday counterpart, Weekend is a perkiness-free zone, and all the better for it. (To be fair, perkiness is probably what's needed for getting people out the door for the weekday grind.) She frames her music with witty banter that's understated and restrained for the hour that's in it. On Sunday, the morning after Boris Johnson's 'Super Saturday' Brexit gambit flopped like a jelly roll, she ran through some of the headlines in the pro-leave British papers. After reading out the one that whinged 'Why Won't They Let Us Leave?', she segued straight into 'Everything Is Awful' by The Decemberists.

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Ten years ago, as recession gripped, an adage grew up that "staying in is the new going out". This was a very bad thing, conjuring images of house arrest with RTÉ2's Saturday night movie and a bag of microwave popcorn. Cinemas were doomed, we were told. Nowadays it seems cinemas are still doomed, but Hollywood is sanguine. Discussing the streaming wars on John Fardy's excellent Screentime (Newstalk, Sat 6pm), Tim Gray of Variety insisted "every day we're getting new reasons to stay home and be entertained". The human race seems to face a fresh existential crisis with every news bulletin, but it's comforting to be reminded we really are such an adaptable lot.

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