Monday 18 December 2017

Newstalk raises the bar amid the good, the bad and the downright weird

It was a fine year on our radios once more, reminding us that the standard in Ireland is as good as anywhere in the world. Not as many huge, epochal-feeling events as last year, maybe, but there was lots going on and lots to listen to – not all of it good. . .

Best station

Newstalk. RTÉ Radio ran them close, but Newstalk takes the prize for energy, inventiveness and willingness to frequently take risks.

Best programmes

• Ireland's Eye. Radio veteran Brendan Balfe turned his gaze to television, examining RTÉ's first half-century with brilliant archive footage and interviews.

• Futureproof. Newstalk's science show is fascinating, challenging and sometimes even a little mind-blowing.

Worst programme

Premier League Live. Today FM's sports-nerd blabber-fest that's so pointless and bizarre, it's almost beyond words.

Best presenters

• Claire Byrne: Give the woman her own weekend show already, RTÉ.

• Sean Rocks: Making the arts accessible and entertaining on Arena.

• Cian Ó Cíobháin: The coolest host of the coolest show on radio, An Taobh Tuathail.

Funniest moments

• Stand-in host Edel Coffey and guests on Arena giving a wry look at Apocalypse in the arts – great fun.

• Liveline hysterics about Rachel Allen shooting a pheasant: nothing like the morally outraged mob in full flow.

• "You had to flush the upstairs and downstairs toilets at the same time, or they wouldn't work. We developed a call system, though" – a hilarious quote from Flatlands, Francesca Lawlor's equally amusing documentary on bedsit life.

Most powerful moments

• Liveline's piece on three young people brought to Ireland 20 years ago from Romanian orphanages. Totally heart-warming, reaffirming your faith in humankind.

• Death of an Empire: Radio 1's outstanding series on the fall of Communist USSR.

Most moving moments

• Ryan Tubridy's sensitive interview with Sarah, a lonely young Cavan woman with multiple sclerosis.n My Dear Cousin, a poignant documentary tracking 50 years of letters between a woman and her American cousin.

Best music shows

• The Magic Carpet: imaginative, surprising and thoroughly entertaining, hosted by Rachel Blech on Lyric.

• The Battleaxe: Cormac Battle's cracking compendium of indie and rock classics on 2fm.

Weirdest moment

John Creedon's Olympics programme. An odd mix of sport and music which fell between two stools.

Random loves of the year

• Sounds of the Summer on Spin South-West: Did exactly what it said, really well.

• Tom Dunne's interview with Seamus O Fianghusa, an Irish-Korean-American US army sergeant turned gaelgeoir.

• IndieWorld, a funny and perceptive comedy-drama written by Orla Murphy for Phantom.

• Spring: Sweet Days, John S Doyle's lovely feature on Lyric.

Random gripes of the year

• The way current affairs shows seem more interested in how something disastrous will impact on the political classes, as opposed to all of us.

• The folks on 2fm's Ballbusters trying too hard to be funny.

• RTÉ constantly cross-promoting between different TV and radio shows. Stop doing that!

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