Entertainment Radio

Tuesday 23 July 2019

George could be a yapper, but he had me hooked

Listening to Shane Coleman filling in for George Hook this week (The Right Hook, Mon-Fri 4.30pm), two thoughts struck me (which might initially seem at odds with each other). Coleman would make a fine replacement for Hook - and Hook will be missed.

I know, he's deferred the radio retirement to autumn next year, but George is in his 70s, the TV rugby gig is already gone - the end of his broadcasting career is in sight. The obvious follow-on question is: who'll replace him?

This being Newstalk, it'll be a man. The station continues to have an almost completely female-free cast, which I've always found very strange, but that's another matter.

So, being a man, Shane Coleman is as good a replacement as any. He's proven his chops by subbing for Hooky many times. He's shown versatility by presenting his own weekend talk-show, and popping up as the station's political editor, across various programmes.

He's clever and likeable. He doesn't have any annoying habits (a rarity in broadcasting, sadly). His accent is fine. Most importantly, he comes across as completely genuine: what you hear is what you get, so to speak.

Because that's what I'll miss most about George Hook: his authenticity. You may not particularly like him - I often don't - but he's real.

And in a media world populated less by genuine people and more by constructed, second-hand "personas", that is very, very welcome. Personally I'd take obnoxious but genuine, over nice but synthetic, any day.

Not that Hook is always obnoxious. He sometimes is, but sometimes he's sound, too. That's my whole point, that mixture of good and bad - he's like a normal human being, warts and all.

Actually, George's worst quality is the fact that he can't stop yapping. So when an interviewee is talking, he has this awful habit of cutting across them with some irrelevant anecdote or daft observation. I won't miss that. But I will miss the authenticity.

Staying with Newstalk…I wonder what G Hook makes of the NPR TED Radio Hour (Sun, 6pm)? There's something quite self-regarding about that whole "TED talks" thing, I've always thought. They get endlessly quoted and mindlessly idolised by a certain type of person: aspirational, "plugged in", tech-savvy. Fond of meaningless aphorisms and self-improvement. The sort of people who know way too much about current affairs and don't read nearly enough old novels.

Yet this slot is often interesting, sometimes very interesting. This week they discussed the differences between "real and created value" in relation to branding, and it was fascinating.

Should I deny myself, then, because I associate TED with pretentious tossers? It's hard to know.

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