Entertainment Radio

Monday 19 August 2019

Doctor Ciara is just the right prescription

Dr Ciara Kelly
Dr Ciara Kelly
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Three weeks or so after formally taking over the slot previously held by George Hook, Dr Ciara Kelly has well and truly bedded in with Lunchtime Live (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 12pm).

In fact, she's hit the ground running: to the extent that Lunchtime Live now feels as though it's been part of the schedule for much longer than a few short weeks. This isn't really a surprise: she was a regular contributor to the station, often subbed for Hook and others, and presented her own Saturday show (Alive and Kicking, 10am), which is also still running. So it's not like this is a new voice or personality we're being introduced to here.

And Kelly is a more than competent broadcaster, so again, it's unsurprising there would be very few teething problems as she took the reins of her biggest gig (so far). She's also smart, wears her heart on her sleeve but isn't annoyingly performative, and - important to me, and not as common as you'd hope on radio - there's something fundamentally likeable about her. To use that peerless bit of Hiberno-English, she seems sound.

So far we've had a nice mix of subjects discussed and reported: recent shows have covered everything from economics, Brexit and commuting to workplace relationships, feminism and Conor McGregor's new movie.

Perhaps naturally, given her medical background, matters of health (especially mental and emotional) have been accorded some prominence. Sometimes on radio, there's a tendency to sentimentalise - worse, pathologise - these things which are often just a natural part of the human condition.

Kelly, though, while kind and sympathetic, is also brisk and no-nonsense. In short, she knows her stuff but isn't robotic about it.

On a tangential point, I was happy enough to see Kelly getting this gig. She deserves it, both for her professional qualities and for her behaviour during the whole Hook farrago.

There was something unseemly about how some of Hook's colleagues piled in. In contrast, Kelly stayed above all that, and remained - as she does on-air - reasonable, balanced and mature in her approach.

(Though personally, I'd have given Sarah Carey a shot in time-slot; her Talking Point is missed, as an intelligent, grown-up alternative to the usual mindless babble of discussion programmes. Or her namesake McInerney, whose demotion to the Styx of Saturday morning is still kind of baffling.)

Another newbie to daily drive-time is Bryan Dobson, now in his second week as one of the presenting cast on Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am). Opening observation: there's something mildly disorientating about encountering Dobson on radio.

It's nothing to do with him, as such, but rather that the mind is so used to seeing him on the TV news, that it feels, subconsciously, as though something is missing when all you're getting is his voice. There's also a second element, a sort of sub-programme, whereby you keep imagining Oliver Callan's "Go back to sleep, Ireland" Dobbo character from the consistently superb Callan's Kicks (Radio 1, Fri 6.30pm).

Does that make sense? It's how I've experienced his move to Radio 1, anyway. But then again, my mind is a strange and Byzantine place; and all that aside, Dobson is fine on Morning Ireland.

He's a veteran broadcaster who knows this stuff inside-out and back-to-front. It's almost inconceivable that he wouldn't do a decent job. Now I'd like to see more of these cross-medium mash-ups. First off: Tommy Gorman to leave the TV News to host a resurrected Metal Show on 2FM. Make it happen, RTÉ. The Gods of Rock command you.

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