Sunday 17 December 2017

The airwaves aren't TV's testing ground – they're a unique medium

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Just as people imagine how certain books would adapt as movies, so they imagine how a radio show, or personality, might translate to television. Actually, they do more than imagine: it happens all the time, with radio broadcasters getting their shot on the small screen.

It's generally not successful. Certain things simply work better on radio; certain people are more suited to it. It's almost as if radio is seen as a testing ground for talent, which is the wrong way to look at it: radio is its own universe, and what plays well there doesn't automatically translate.

The most recent attempt to transfer radio gold to TV is Second Captains Live, currently on a four-week run on RTÉ Two. The famous five who quit Newstalk's sports show Off the Ball have embarked on a fledgling TV career.

The show isn't bad by any means, though the comedy bits could be excised; but what flaws it does have, highlight what we've been talking about. What made Off the Ball so enjoyable – still does, under Ger Gilroy and his team – was the freewheeling, improvisational atmosphere.

Obviously the show is nothing of the sort: tonnes of research, planning and hard work goes into producing radio; it takes a lot of effort to make something seem so effortless. But Off the Ball sounds as though it's off-the-cuff.

Much of that was down to the long, rambling conversations between anchor Eoin McDevitt and Ken Early. But that type of chat is virtually impossible on TV.

Listening to radio, maybe half-listening while doing the dishes or whatever, you can zone in and out. Watching telly, your full attention is on what's unfolding; the mind gets impatient very quickly.

It's all quite instructive, though, and gives good insight into the difficulties of making the shift from radio to TV.

It also makes you contemplate what other shows might be adapted.

Oliver Callan's comedy skits, obviously. A video version of Cormac Battle's classic rock show on 2fm would surely find an appreciative audience. Derek Mooney's nature-hunts would go well with visual accompaniment. Maybe Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin's leisurely Sunday morning interview series, if you incorporated archive footage.

Other than that it's hard to imagine. But we'll probably continue doing it anyway.

Irish Independent

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