Sunday 19 November 2017

Radio review: The silly season has well and truly begun

Sarah Carey
Sarah Carey

Eilis O'Hanlon

Two weeks ago, Richard Chambers was presenting Lunchtime on Newstalk. On Bank Holiday Monday, he was drafted in to do The Pat Kenny Show instead and Lunchtime was being fronted by Andrea Gilligan.

Then on Tuesday, Jonathan was back in for Pat, and Chambers returned to the show that still gets broadcast under Healy's name. Marty Morrissey, meanwhile, was doing The Ryan Tubridy Show... Yes, it's that time of year again, when no one is where they're meant to be.

Some of the substitutions worked better than others. The estimable Sarah Carey was predictably great on Newstalk's Sunday Show, but the now George-less Right Hook, which would have been an ideal vehicle for Carey, was in the hands of actor Simon Delaney instead, who coped manfully with the pressure of two hours of news and debate without ever sounding entirely convincing in the role.

Talking about books, he was forced to admit that he didn't read much; speaking to a guest about the benefits of bringing up children on a vegan diet, he stuck safely to the facts, whereas a more experienced interlocutor would have got more mischief and mileage out of the subject.

Neil Delamere has more experience as a radio presenter with his regular Sunday Best show on Today FM, but this week was in the hot seat on The Anton Savage Show, during which he was heard to declare: "I saw Daniel Radcliffe's willy… I've seen Harry Potter's wand." Which sort of set the tone for the week.

Most obvious sign that the silly season is well and truly here was the "Bank Holiday Politicians and Pundits Quiz" on Today With Sean O'Rourke, in which guests from politics and the media answered some ludicrously easy questions about the news and current affairs.

The giddy tone was a reminder that politicians should never be asked to be funny, because it rarely works. There were feeble political and sporting quips aplenty ("make sure there's a tribunal of inquiry… that one definitely went in off the post"), but we should probably just be grateful that the old standard about "brown envelopes" didn't make an appearance.

It was all rather shambolic and amateurish, with Eamon Dunphy even getting in a gratuitous reference to Donald Trump's penis, to O'Rourke's discomfort. The panel show is a staple of modern radio. Surely someone at RTE should know how to do it right by now?

The week wasn't a complete write off. Eddie Naughten was on Arena on RTE Radio One on Wednesday to discuss his new play about Sean O'Casey, Inishfallen Fare Thee Well, inspired by commemorations of the 1913 Lockout, which he believes has been unfairly treated as a mere precursor to 1916 rather than in its own right.

Ronan Wilmot, who plays O'Casey in the play, was brilliant too on the magic of theatre, but it was the politics of the piece that shone like a beacon through the recent fog of the centenary celebrations. Both men are staunch socialists, warmly and proudly protective of this working class Protestant from a Dublin tenement who produced some of the greatest of Irish dramas and who saw 1916 as a "flag- swapping exercise" that did nothing to help the people he lived amongst.

Presenter Sean Rocks handled it with his usual quiet skill. See, it is possible to make intelligent radio, even in summer.

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