Monday 23 October 2017

Darragh McManus on radio: Droll Frost's take on Tricky Dicky proves an engrossing listen

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

When that movie Frost/Nixon came out a few years ago, I remember thinking: has anything ever had a less-promising premise? A film of a play of a TV interview with a politician – while nicely meta-textual, it sounded about as interesting as a film of a play of a TV interview with a politician possibly can. And they literally stuck to that premise, and didn't jazz it up with explosions or sex scenes or vampires or anything.

Oddly enough, though, BBC Radio 4's documentary Frost on Nixon was absolutely engrossing. Aired in tribute to David Frost, who died recently, it incorporated an hour's worth of old audio footage of Tricky Dicky himself.

Interspersed with interviews, press conferences, state-of-the-nation addresses and – of course – surveillance audio were Frost's droll, insightful comments on what we'd just heard and on Nixon himself.

Funny, you got the impression he was almost fond of the old crook, though always quick to criticise when needed. Nixon was a complicated character, for sure, beyond the easy stereotype: very flawed but not without admirable qualities.

On the one hand, he was anti-Semitic, dishonest, ruthless and – reinforced on hearing that distinctive, blubbery voice again – really a pretty weird guy. On the other, he was more progressive than we assume; Nixon was years ahead of his time on the environment, for instance.

As he reportedly once said: "People look at Kennedy and see who they think they'd like to be; they look at me and see who they are." This show gave us an in-depth look at him, and was a fitting tribute to the late, great Frost.

Speaking of politicians, ex-Minister Ivan Yates has settled back into life on Newstalk's Breakfast remarkably quickly. He's hardly returned a wet week and it feels like he never left.

I'm not the biggest fan of Yates as a broadcaster, mainly because of the alpha-male bluster, which is admittedly all quite benign but exhausting to listen to.

And paired with George Hook's chest-beating macho-man bellows later in the day, it's not something that was in short supply at the station.

Still, he is a good broadcaster outside of that, and it's nice to see someone overcome their troubles. So a warm welcome back, Ivan (the gloves come off next week).

Irish Independent

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