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Captain Nicky needs to earn his wings on new radio show

'Nicky is flying the plane." So insisted co-host Jenny Greene, on Monday morning, as the maiden flight of The Nicky Byrne Show prepared for take-off. "There are four computer screens looking at me . . . lots of different numbers," said Captain Byrne, adding that he was focused on hitting "the right number" (a vital piloting skill).

The 'plane' in question wasn't, of course, a plane at all, just some boring ol' studio, but for a fleeting and glorious moment this sounded like a thrilling radio innovation.

If Dan Healy, head of 2fm, is seriously committed to "fast-paced, high-octane content that pushes boundaries" (as he previously suggested), then a trick may have been missed here.

I mean, who wouldn't tune in to listen to a bewildered Nicky Byrne broadcasting from the cockpit of a high-octane 747 that he wasn't entirely sure how to fly?

Even the most banal bits of banter would become the stuff of high drama if you knew that those doing the bantering were careering wildly about in the skies.

VALIDATE

Given all the aviation imagery, you'd assume references to Flying Without Wings were unavoidable, but one of the show's running gags was that whenever Westlife (or Louis Walsh) were mentioned, a Euro had to be chucked into 'The Westlife Swear it Again Box'.

If this was a playful attempt to distance Byrne from his past and help validate him as a 'proper' DJ, then it didn't hurt that he had, in Jenny Greene, a proper DJ right beside him.

In terms of tone and format, there's nothing especially fresh on offer here. Segments like 'Tweet Little Mystery' (where callers try to identify a celebrity tweet) or '10 Minute Takeover' (where listeners briefly get to dictate the show's musical content) are the kind of bog-standard pieces of fluff the mid-morning is full of.

Yet, as such things go, the show isn't wholly without some breezy charm – even if it's hard not to feel that Greene is being wasted.

She comfortably pulled off the tricky balancing act of supporting her rookie partner, while also ribbing him about his former boyband life.

Officially, she may only be a co-pilot, but I know who'd I'd rather have flying the plane.

The spring season of Documentary on Newstalk continued with 'You are Here' – which promised to "tell the epic story of our universe" . . . in less than an hour (can't fault the ambition).

The idea was that Shaun O'Boyle would start at the O2 and walk west along the Liffey "until 1.37 km [had] been covered".

That distance, explained narrator Maurice Kelliher, represented "a scaled down version of the universe's 13.7 billion year history".

ENGAGING

After discussing the Big Bang outside the O2, O'Boyle began ambling "through time and space" along the quays, stopping, now and then, for encounters with various scientists.

A simple, but well-executed, idea that was lively and engaging without ever feeling dumbed-down.

Plus, like all good cosmology documentaries, it left me feeling even tinier and more insignificant than usual.

With Kelliher explaining that the "entire written history" of humankind could be represented, on O'Boyle's walk, by "a miniscule half a millimetre", and geneticist Aoife McLysaght suggesting that we humans are "not more important than slime molds".

Finally, I've been listening to MindFeed for months now, and I'm still not certain what it's supposed to be, who it's for or why it exists.

Bits of it remain strangely moreish though. Like the 'Social Experiment', where Norah Casey asks "thought-provoking questions to an eclectic . . . panel" (butcher, comedian, seven-year-old boy, Louis Copeland etc).

This week, the panel were gifted a time machine and asked what "era they'd like to visit". The choicest answers and most Alan Partridge moments – came from the listeners.

"I'd love to have a chat with Leonardo da Vinci," said Terry in Maynooth. Margaret (in Castleknock) wanted to go "back in time to the night the Titanic sank".

She'd be a "guest at dinner" but would "jump into her time machine just before the ship went down". "You could warn the captain about the iceberg," tut-tutted a disapproving Casey (in full-on Partridge mode), "and change the course of history".

I doubt Margaret cared. She was probably off, through time, on to the next free meal.


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