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Hector won't be all at sea on television

Hector O hEochagain is back on our screens tonight. The hyperactive bilinguist returns to RTE1 with a new four-part series of Hector Goes. The 44-year-old Peter Pan of Irish television will, according to the advance publicity, be exploring "the quirkier side roads of Irish life". Such as, er, fishing. Can't get much quirkier than that, can you? They're mad, those trawlermen, gas characters, great craic – just like Hector himself, eh?

I haven't seen any previews of Hector Goes, but I did see a bit of last year's, so it's probably safe to assume it will be more of the same: Hector hops into his quirky combi van (orange like his hair, naturally), hangs out with some quirky people, does a bit of quirky leppin' around and delivers a bit of quirky mugging to camera when nobody's looking. Except the camera crew, obviously, who are probably as quirky as Hector.


Your tolerance of all this largely depends on your tolerance of both Hector and quirkiness. Mine is limited, though I'd still probably rather have Hector in his van than John Creedon – another broadcaster who specialises in quirky – in his vintage Mercedes, revisiting the haunts of his childhood family holidays or whatever it was he got up to in that series whose name I can't now remember.

Still, I imagine Hector is ecstatically happy to be back on television, and at least Hector Goes will be full of colour, noise and movement, if not a lot else. It should also help heal the pain of his recent bruising experience in radio.

2fm decided before Christmas that Hector's brand of rural-centric cheeriness didn't fit with the crisis-hit station's umpteenth confused attempt at reconfiguring itself and ditched him from the breakfast show, apparently with little warning, after three years.

I'm no particular fan of Hector, but this seemed like an unnecessarily cruel move, particularly when the JNLR figures came out in January and revealed his show had gained 12,000 listeners in a year after a long period of shedding them.

His replacements in the slot were former Phantom DJ Keith Walsh and the Republic of Telly duo Jennifer Maguire and Bernard O'Shea. The results so far have been predictably unbearable.

I endured 10 minutes of Breakfast Republic's high-decibel puerility before switching over. It makes Hector in the morning sound like the soothing honey of Lyric FM.

To the outside observer, the whole business appears to have been handled shoddily, but it reflects a consistent failing in RTE: the belief that because a presenter clicks in one medium (although whether you consider Republic of Telly good TV depends on how many brain cells you killed with booze the night before), they'll click in another.

This is why you have the same few RTE faces and voices going back and forth between TV and radio, and why the results are so often sub-standard drivel.

Newstalk's Sean Moncrieff, who hosts the best afternoon show on Irish radio by several miles, hit the nail on the head last week when he pointed out the difference between sitting in a TV studio working from a script and sitting in a radio studio alone, attempting to hold an audience's attention for two or three hours.


Moncrieff, who's currently taping TV3's new quiz show Crossfire, told the Herald: "In radio, it's easier to be found out if there's not a brain in your head, or if you have just nothing interesting to say."

Few people can do TV and radio well. Moncrieff, who's earned his stripes, sometimes painfully (remember that misfiring chat show back in the 90s?), is one of them and knows what he's talking about.

You could interpret his comments as a swipe at Breakfast Republic, or at RTE's belief that former Westlifer Nicky Byrne's awe-inspiring ability to read from an autocue without falling on his arse in the bits and pieces of television he has done uniquely qualifies him to host 2fm's mid-morning show.

Me, I prefer to think of it as common sense.