Entertainment Radio

Tuesday 12 November 2019

You're Dead to Me podcast brings history to life


RTE’s Sean O’Rourke
RTE’s Sean O’Rourke
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Could it be possible? Is the least-entertaining soap opera of all time, AKA Brexit, finally coming to an end? Excited dispatches, from last week onwards, seemed to suggest it.

At the time of writing this, a deal had been reached and was to go before the UK and EU parliaments, albeit with the usual caveats: many of them centred on DUP intransigence, as if to give life again to that old adage about history repeating itself, "first as tragedy, then as farce". As Sean O'Rourke (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 10am) said, quoting chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier, it's "difficult but not impossible".

Fingers crossed that this won't prove to be another Brexit mirage, that this mess will finally be resolved and our airwaves can return to that blessed prelapsarian state, when Brexit didn't dominate the media as it currently, wearingly does.

I know I'm heartily sick of being basically unable to avoid Brexit when I switch on the radio. I'm sure this is a fairly common feeling. Sky News has launched a Brexit-free channel for viewers who've had it with the whole thing; I wonder, could the radio stations follow suit and declare themselves non-Brexit zones?

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But while we're on the topic: anti-English bigots here in Ireland (you know who you are) often frame Brexit in terms of "Little Englanders harking back to an imagined glorious past". Spiteful and unfair, in my humble, and wrong on at least one count: England really does have an incredible past.

Not always on the side of the angels, granted, but massively rich, dramatic and interesting. Which brings me to You're Dead to Me (BBC Radio 4), a podcast "for people who don't like history… and those who do".

Host Greg Jenner, and his guests drawn from the worlds of comedy and history, don't limit their remit to our neighbouring island. But recent episodes have covered such diverse subjects from British history as warrior-queen Boudicca, association football, Blackbeard the pirate, witch-burnings and, this week, Stonehenge. It's funny, fast-moving and enlightening: the first two are not always words you associate with history shows. I almost look forward to the day in 2119 when a cryogenically preserved Jenner presents a podcast on Br*xit.

Newstalk Breakfast (Mon-Fri, 7am) featured a bit on that new RTÉ/BBC TV show, Dublin Murders. Not the show, per se, but the fact that there was a lot of smoking in it. This, apparently, is a bad influence on young people; the usual moral guardians of society are up in arms.

Thankfully, listener contributions put it all in some sane perspective. One text suggested we trust our kids that they won't be influenced by telly over their families and communities; a caller pointed out that this violent late-night crime drama probably isn't being watched by young children. Well, exactly.

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