Sunday 18 August 2019

Arena does the right thing by Spike's classic film


Spike Lee (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Spike Lee (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Colm O'Regan Wants a Word (Radio 1, Mon 1.30pm) returned over the Bank Holiday weekend. And a very welcome return it was, too.

The comedy show examines a different topic each week - in this case, technology, artificial intelligence and the digital age. With support from actors Paul Tylak and Tara Flynn, plus tech journalist Ciara O'Brien, the Corkman skewered the pomposity, weirdness and all-round BS of that industry and its surrounding culture.

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O'Regan is witty (in all senses of the word), clever, playful and very likeable. He makes some important points about the world we live in. Ultimately, though, he remembers what comedy is supposed to do, above and beyond all else: making us laugh with lots of good, funny gags.

The always-interesting 'Tell Me Why?' on Moncrieff (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 2pm) examined why drugs are so addictive. And it's actually more complicated than you might think.

For starters, we can be addicted to things that aren't drugs… and not all drugs are addictive. Hallucinogens, for instance, activate very different receptors in the brain to opiates.

There's a big difference between addiction and habit. One way of classifying addiction, we heard, is this: when our "mental reward system" - what keeps us doing things that help maintain the human race, eg sex, eating and not dying - gets replaced by something that's not good for us, eg crystal meth.

Mind-blowing stuff, in all sorts of ways. Though not quite as mind-blowing as the revelation on Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am) that 120,000 learner permit-holders have never taken a driving test. Some, we learned, first obtained a provisional licence in 1984! That's 35 years ago…

Which brings us neatly to JJs - The Story of JJ Smyth's (Near FM, Thu 2pm), an interesting documentary on something of which I was previously unaware: the eponymous bar which hosted jazz music for more than three decades. In one of those quirks of fate or history, the legendary songwriter Thomas Moore - he of 'The Minstrel Boy' fame - was born on that exact spot, located in Aungier Street in Dublin 2. Anyway this was an exemplary documentary, made with care and heart, packed with informative commentators… and the backing soundtrack wasn't too shabby either.

Arena (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7pm) marked the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Famously passed over for an Oscar, Lee's drama nonetheless showed, in the words of contributor Ruth Barton, that "there was a wide audience for films with black characters".

She and Jim Carroll discussed the movie's (and Public Enemy's) place in black American culture. Lee is a genius in some ways, and Do the Right Thing is brilliant, a love-letter to New York that's bursting with life.

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