Wednesday 19 December 2018

Radio: US politics nerds in heaven but it's hell for the rest of us

 

Count: A supporter of Republican Beto O’Rourke cries as he concedes Texas. Picture: REUTERS/Mike Segar
Count: A supporter of Republican Beto O’Rourke cries as he concedes Texas. Picture: REUTERS/Mike Segar
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Irish radio's baffling - and, frankly, somewhat disturbing - obsession with America continues apace. Now, they don't devote endless hours to those aspects of US life which are genuinely fascinating: their music and books, the landscapes and language, the whole crazy sociocultural stew that makes America what someone once called "God's playground".

No: it's US politics that infatuates radio producers - the most dismal, least interesting thing about that bonkers and wonderful nation.

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So they were in hog heaven this week, as something called "the midterm elections" took place Stateside. I, meanwhile, languished in a particularly boring hell.

"Were the midterms a triumph for Donald Trump?" asked Newstalk Breakfast (Mon-Fri 7am). "Why are US midterms so important?" wondered The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 4pm). "Democrats seize control of the House," announced Morning Ireland (Mon-Fri 7am), "as Republicans retain…" Oh, something-or-other - I'd tuned out by that point, literally and figuratively.

US-based reporter Marion McKeone, slightly surreally, even popped up on two separate stations, within 12 hours, to discuss these earth-shattering developments: The Last Word (Today FM, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) and Today with Sean O'Rourke (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 10am).

Yes, we get it, producers and presenters: you're collectively obsessed with American politics. But I honestly don't think listeners are, or care to any degree, outside of the quadrennial Presidential elections. And even then, it's complete overkill.

More enjoyable - in a masochistic sort of fashion - was Newstalk's series on "Commuter Hell". Much of it went out as listeners were stuck in gridlock: a bitter irony, for sure, but this was an invigorating, challenging and very worthwhile project. Kudos to Newstalk, showing inventiveness and ambition once again. They may not be a public service broadcaster, but this truly did the public some service.

The same station's Futureproof (Sat 12 noon) had a marvellously mind-bending chat with US astrophysicist Paul Sutter about the end of the universe. The cosmos is now middle-aged: "We've got past our hot, awkward youth. We're cooling off. We've bought a house, couple of kids…" Host Jonathan McCrea chimed in, "checking the ingredients of food, that sort of thing."

Great fun, and worth more than one listen. By the way, don't panic - we have trillions of years to go yet.

Also worth checking out is The Dublin Public House, from the excellent Near Fm (Tue, 3.30pm). This history of, and tribute to, the titular drinking-shops in the capital is colourful, engaging, full of interesting titbits and very charming. The next episode of three airs next Tuesday, all are available on nearfm.ie

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