Radio review: The future's here and there isn't a hoverboard in sight

Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in Back To The Future

John Byrne

So, what was I saying again (before the new year rudely interrupted us)?

Something about cheese? Or the future, maybe, and how I liked it (the future I mean... and cheese too?)

It’s already lost in the rapidly dimming haze of the very recent past. 2014. Which was, of course, the present then. Back when 2015 – the present present – was the future. I need a lie down.

But, yes, the future! 2015! It’s here! And it’s been, thus far, a bitter bloody disappointment. One that looks, sounds and smells exactly like the present. We were promised so much more. Hoverboads and self-tying shoelaces.

Robotic dog-walkers and flying cars (and, less impressively, fax machines in every room). And who promised us this (you’re probably not asking)? Why none other than that master of deceit Michael J Fox... kind of.

For, you see, we’ve finally arrived in the ‘future’ to which Marty McFly and Doc Brown zipped forward (via flying DeLorean) in Back to the Future Part II. Leaving behind 1985 (their present) to meddle in the affairs of a kooky 2015 (our present). Except, of course, the film was actually made in 1989... which simultaneously makes (made?) 1985 their present and their past, or something. My head hurts.

Why am I mentioning all this? Can’t remember. No, wait. There’s a reason, or two. Sunday’s Dave Fanning Show and Friday’s Moncrieff, to be precise, both of which devoted time (appropriately enough) to the accuracy, or otherwise, of the film’s future predictions.

Brian Lloyd – Fanning’s guest – credited the film with anticipating the return to fashion prominence of “high-top runners” (or “boot tackies” as we called  ‘em). As futurist prognostication goes, this was/is a little on the underwhelming side.

Lloyd also credited the film (specifically its ‘Cafe 80s’ scene) with foreseeing the rise of “retro culture”.

“Go into any trendy bar or club in Dublin,” he said, and you’ll find an “old arcade cabinet in the corner”.

Being (to possibly, coin a word) an ‘infrequenter’ of trendy bars and/or clubs, I’ve no easy way of knowing if this is true or not.

Meanwhile, on Moncrieff (well actually two days previously, stay with me) Henry McKean was vox-popping Dublin’s populace on the (Back to the) future that never was. Contributions ran the gamut from “Wasn’t the past gas?” to, well, “Wasn’t the past gas?”

Video recorders! Walkmans (Walkmen?)! Public phone booths! The Golden Pages!

The litany of past ‘gas’ things dribbled on and on, to no useful or edifying end. “Is the future now?” McKean asked a woman who seemed confused (understandably) and didn’t really answer (understandably).

Anyway, it isn’t now. It’s still, believe it or not, in the future (which is really the first place you should look). Plus, come October 21 of this year – the day when Marty and the Doc arrived in the future/present – we might well be neck deep in hoverboards and flying cars.

To the point where we’re tormenting Joe Duffy about how they’ve become ubiquitous public nuisances. The future is gas. Amorphous. You never can tell.

Speaking of which, the most authentically gas thing of the week could be found on Monday’s Culture File (which itself could be found, as per usual, near the half-way point of Liz Nolan’s Classic Drive). If you’d tuned in even fractionally late to this report on (comedian) Eleanor Tiernan’s “National Therapy Project to help Ireland through its current trauma” (as host Luke Clancy put it), you may well have ended up semi-convinced (or more than that) that the whole thing was bona fide.

Clancy’s intro, however, rather gave the game away when he described Tiernan as someone who “specialises in comedy with a pan so dead you might feel inclined to administer CPR.” And how!

“Why does Ireland need therapy? Aren’t we grand? Take a moment to consider the potato,” drolled Tiernan, in a tone so deliciously far beyond deadpan it was practically mummified.

By the time she was telling us about being contacted by the “National Identity Management Agency” who asked her to set up this “citizen improvement scheme” (designed to cure participants of the “twisted problems that we have in the Irish psyche”), I was almost beginning to doubt the joke.

But a ‘joke’ it was, or a ‘joke’ taster for Tiernan’s upcoming shows at the First Fortnight mental health arts festival. And, more than that, it was a brilliant/hilarious skewering of (among other things): the self-help industry; “we know what’s good for you” governance; and dreary, boil-in-the-bag articulations of ‘Irishness.’

Radio moment of the year so far. What the future holds, we’ll see.

The Dave Fanning Show 2GFM, Saturday and Sunday

Moncrieff, Newstalk Weekdays

Culture File Lyric FM Weekdays