Tuesday 16 October 2018

Daytime radio can feel like a 'life' sentence

ROCK DJ: Louise McSharry gets ready to return to 2fm
ROCK DJ: Louise McSharry gets ready to return to 2fm

Eilis O'Hanlon

You can tell a lot about a show by the tagline that its makers attach to it. "It's all about life" is the insipid one chosen for The Ray D'Arcy Show, which seems to suggest that RTE actually has no idea what it's about; that it's just an empty vessel waiting for something, anything, to come along and fill it.

This week's range of topics was typical in that regard. Some sport. Some books. EU milk quotas. Organ donations. The 50th anniversary of The Sound Of Music. There's eclectic, and then there's, well, a mess, and what we have on our hands here is a mess. Albeit one slightly alleviated by a fascinating discussion on Monday with crime reporter Michael O'Toole about his reactions to the Elaine O'Hara murder trial, in which he admitted wanting at times to "attack" Graham Dwyer.

The tagline for Tubridy on 2fm is similarly revealing in its anodyne meaninglessness. "Unpredictable, up-to-the-minute and never too far from the heart of the matter," is how it goes. It sounds like something the producers wished a reviewer would say, so that they could put it on a poster, but none ever did, so they had to come up with it themselves.

Again, there was a nice interview on Wednesday with fellow 2fm DJ Louise McSharry, due to return soon to the airwaves six months after revealing that she was being treated, thankfully successfully, for cancer. But the highlights are few and far between.

Most self-deprecating tagline surely goes to 2fm's Chris And Ciara: "It's where you'll get to hear the stuff that isn't good enough to air during the day." Not true, as it happens. The programme is far more entertaining than Breakfast Republic, begging the question: Why doesn't 2fm let the two shows switch places?

Worst thing on radio right now has to be Men's Hour on BBC Radio Four, a dreadful show which tries to replicate the still genuinely engaging Woman's Hour, only to serve up an unappetising, lukewarm stew of earnest tokenism.

This week was all about men's various experiences of fatherhood. Meh. This is the sort of show feminists wished men wanted to listen to, rather than one they ever actually would. It's on a Sunday too, a day when most men tend to have more important things on their mind, and rightly so.

Monday's Front Row on the same station was much better. It featured author Peter Ackroyd talking about his new biography of Alfred Hitchcock, a man "more interested in watching the world than participating in it". Ackroyd was funny and informative, as indeed he was when he also appeared on Wednesday's John Murray Show on RTE Radio One, but the interviews were quite different in tone.

Murray was too brisk and businesslike in his questions. The subject needed a more leisurely approach. It's not as if Hitchcock was short of fascinating talking points.

Finally, the Gift Grub team on Today FM's Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show brought some inside footage from a standard RTE editorial meeting: "Usual drill. Any good ideas - leave them outside." Cruel, but true.

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