Saturday 24 February 2018

Radio: Let's have less of Brown and more Ballydehob

STAR: Brendan O’Carroll as Mrs Brown. Photo: Collins
STAR: Brendan O’Carroll as Mrs Brown. Photo: Collins

Eilis O'Hanlon

Inviting Brendan O’Carroll to host Marian Finucane’s weekend show probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It quickly became obvious that being an entertaining guest is not the same as being an accomplished presenter. O’Carroll regained some credibility with a discussion on the effects of austerity which, while extremely uncritical, did at least involve real people with real experiences, rather than Marian’s usual mix of the great and the good. He also gave away €30,000 to a businessman in need, at which point even the most sceptical listener surely decided to give Brendan the benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately, it all went a bit pear-shaped on Sunday’s Marian, as O’Carroll — egged on by Liveline’s Joe Duffy, who seemed to have a bee in his bonnet about it — devoted way too much time to defending Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie against critics. Using the national broadcaster to put down your detractors risked making the show sound like the worst sort of vanity radio.  RTE was still extolling the film’s merits the next day.

On Today With Sean O’Rourke, Eric Lawlor, of website, rather oddly admitted he’d only “seen one or two bits and pieces of the show [and] I haven’t seen the movie”. Nonetheless, he declared: “I get slightly annoyed at people having pot shots at O’Carroll for the success he’s enjoyed”. They’re not. Most people, critics included, wish him well. They just didn’t like the film. Which, unlike Eric, they’d actually seen. 

On 2fm, Louise McSharry was sitting in for Tubridy and asking that all-important question: “Are Irish people obsessed by sunglasses?” To be fair, inconsequentiality is no single presenter’s fault;  it’s the station’s house style.  Breakfast Republic, which hasn’t stopped being unbearable since its launch, was asking which World Cup team has the best-looking fans, while the Nicky Byrne Show was inviting listeners to guess what women on online dating websites want to see in pictures of potential partners (cute pets, apparently). Which is fine, if that’s what floats your boat, and the discussion on Tubridy on why it’s become impossible for parents to buy anything other than tiny, buttock-exposing shorts for their daughters did raise an important topic. It just remains inexplicable why a bog-standard commercial pop radio station is still being funded by the licence fee.

Licence-fee money would be better spent on programmes like this week’s Documentary On One: Keeping The Door Open. It was an elegiac look by Leeanne O’Donnell at a few months in the life of one pub, Levis Corner House in Ballydehob, Co Cork, as it moved into new ownership after 100 years in the same family.

“It’s not about drink,” explained one man, who works behind the bar. “It’s conversation, it’s having a chat. It’s rural Ireland; that’s the way we were brought up. You just chat to them, ask them how are they getting on. And three simple words: are you OK? People need to hear that.” Five simple words for RTE: more of the same, please.

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