CHAMPAGNE corks a-popping. Backs being slapped enthusiastically. Chairs being shifted. If any covert government agency currently has Newstalk HQ under audio surveillance, these are the sounds it's most likely hearing.
Why? Well, it's been a bumper few months for Newstalk. Not only did it complete the capture of a Pat Kenny-shaped prize (ie, Pat Kenny), it scooped the Station of the Year gong at last Friday's PPI Radio Awards. Hence the (hypothetical) back-slapping and champagne-quaffing.
As for the shifting chairs, blame (or, possibly, thank) Kenny. From the moment he plonked his rump on the Newstalk throne, the station's schedules have been in a flux. The first 'victim' of King Pat's reign? Tom Dunne – who sacrificed his slot for the benefit of the new man.
Dunne has had a strange trajectory. On Pet Sounds (Today FM) he was a nightly spinner of 'indie' discs. On Newstalk, pre-Pat, he was an affable enough purveyor of mid-morning whimsy. And now? He's back on the night shift, with a show still finding its feet and struggling for identity.
After a meandering Monday, Tuesday found Dunne in his comfort zone – paying tribute to "one of the greatest Irish songwriters of all time", namely, Phil Chevron, who'd died earlier that day. Steve Averill and Pete Holidai, Chevron's old (pre-Pogues) bandmates from pioneering Irish punk outfit The Radiators from Space, were on the line to offer memories of Phil. As was Christy Moore.
If the Chevron piece was deftly handled, Dunne's interview with Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie was almost strangled from the outset by a hilariously clunky concept. Back to Mine was, Dunne informed us, a new item on the show where "people pretend they're after bringing you back to their gaff after a few pints and then they let you look at their vinyl collection, or whatever".
"Have you ever actually invited anyone back to your gaff?" he hopefully asked Gillespie after explaining the whole rigmarole to him again.
"Not for a while," Gillespie mumbled, as Back to Mine began deflating before our ears. "I've got kids now. I don't drink either. I don't really party." How would the chiddlers feel, continued Dunne gamely, if they came "down in the morning" to find Daddy Gillespie "still up, chatting, playing music for people?" "It's just not right," muttered Bobby, earnestly. "It doesn't seem right." And so an item presumably intended to lend the show some funky/late night/rock 'n' roll cool descended (or ascended, maybe?) into a lecture about parental responsibility. From Bobby Gillespie.
The Newstalk reshuffle hadn't just shuffled Dunne into uncertain waters, it had also shuffled Norah Casey into a brand new show, MindFeed. "I hope you've had your breakfast," advised Norah, kicking things off, "because for the next hour I'm only serving food for the brain." Food for the brain? Yummers! What was on the menu? Well, we heard the thoughts of Roddy Collins . . . on the smell of newborn babies. We heard a Top 10 list in which each number was roared out in a 'comedy' accent. And when Norah said "Tweet me", a cartoon bird (I think) trilled: "Tweet! Tweet!" Y'know, food for the brain.
"Let's delve inside your MIND, Flo McSweeney," Casey then said, to, er, Flo McSweeney. "Tell us your passion. How do you measure your success? What do you love about yourself?"
It was like a cross between a job interview and that episode of Absolutely Fabulous where a Hello! reporter asks Joanna Lumley questions such as: "Is it important to have lovely things around you?"
McSweeney, in fairness, was witty and self-deprecating, sailing through the mind probe with flying colours.
The rest of the hour was padded out with a Pitch of the Week slot (for "all those budding entrepreneurs out there") and – my favourite – something Norah was "kind of calling the social experiment". Where a handful of random people – including a priest, Joan Burton and a 12-year-old girl – were asked a "thought-provoking" question. This week's question: "If you had any superpower, what would it be and why?" Next week? I can hardly wait.
File this one under "enjoyably bonkers".