Not much to sink your teeth into with Nicky Byrne and Jenny Greene

Radio review: 2FM duo stick to cheeky banter and Second Captains tog out for RTÉ’s first team

Jenny Greene and Nicky Byrne hosts of 2FM’s ‘The Nicky Byrne Show with Jenny Greene’

Jenny Greene and Nicky Byrne hosts of 2FM’s ‘The Nicky Byrne Show with Jenny Greene’

 

Young people these days, what are they like? Health conscious and diet aware is the perhaps surprising and definitely disappointing answer, at least if The Nicky Byrne Show With Jenny Greene (2FM, weekdays) is anything to go by. On Wednesday’s edition of the youth-oriented station’s flagship show, Byrne enthusiastically informs listeners of the “bumper show” that awaits. The must-hear items are a segment on “better food choices” and a lifestyle advice slot from an expert. It’s not that one expects a diet of sex and drugs and rock’n’roll from the former Westlife member, but even by bland boyband standards this is worryingly abstemious fare.

The healthfood item turns out to be little more than an infomercial with a celebrity model, while the show’s “lifestyle guru” is in fact a multimedia journalist talking about hangovers. Now that’s more like the irresponsible, vacuous and image-obsessed youngsters that their elders lament about.

The interview with model Claudine Keane seems particularly lightweight, with the hosts allowing their guest to repeatedly plug a campaign she is fronting for a convenience store chain. Whenever the conversation turns to healthy eating, Keane extols the virtues of the chain’s food labelling. Otherwise, the presenters ask their guest about the future plans of her footballer husband Robbie, or discuss how her son plays football with Byrne’s son. As with much convenience store food, there’s not a lot to sink your teeth into. One hopes 2FM charged for the advertising time.

Similarly, the discussion with “guru” Sarah-Jayne Tobin is low in substance but high in spirits. Before Tobin passes on helpful hints on coping with hangovers – drinking is “probably not the best idea if you’ve an exam or a work project the next day”, she sensationally suggests – the presenters trade jibes about their favourite tipples, past and present. “I always drank cider,” says Greene. “In a field?” asks Byrne gleefully.

In fairness, the show’s chief selling point is the interaction between the presenters, no matter that Greene’s name only plays a supporting part in the billing. There’s an affable appeal to the on-air relationship between Byrne, the cheeky but decent lad-turned-dad who talks about driving his son to soccer training and his celebrity friends, and Greene, the sparky DJ who slags her co-host about his hopelessly advanced years. (He’s 38.) 

Refreshingly, their gender difference is rarely referred to. It’s hardly coincidental that this is the case on 2FM, where far more women host high-profile slots than on sister (or brother) station, RTÉ Radio 1.

But with a playlist of contemporary pop eating up the airtime and a tone that rarely moves beyond larky banter, the show is a pleasing distraction at best, the radio equivalent of perusing social media updates on a smartphone. It’s worth remembering this is the slot where any and all topics were dissected with egotistical majesty by Gerry Ryan, until his untimely death seven years ago. Then again, Byrne and Greene recently increased their listenership so their frothy approach is clearly working. Kids today, eh?

Out of time?

Personal chemistry is crucial for the success of a radio presenting team, but so too is timing. Eoin McDevitt, Ken Early and Ciarán Murphy conjured up many memorable moments in their previous roles as hosts of Newstalk’s nightly sports show Off The Ball. But filling in for Ryan Tubridy on a bank holiday Monday morning in their Second Captains guise (RTÉ Radio 1), they sound slightly unmoored. 

The trio (two of whom, Early and Murphy, are Irish Times columnists) retain the flip approach to style and content they forged on Newstalk. But their offbeat topics, from McDevitt’s meandering spiel about his first “holiday friendship” to Murphy’s ruminations about global prosecco and avocado shortages, sound out of place on mainstream mid-morning radio, akin to a cherished cult band suddenly headlining at Slane.

The situation is redeemed by McDevitt’s skill as an interviewer. Snooker player Ken Doherty recalls his victory in the sport’s World Championship in 1997, but under McDevitt’s relaxed but assured hand goes on to recount evocative tales of his Dublin childhood and his late mother. What could have been a generic sports piece becomes a rounded, nostalgic portrait.

McDevitt pulls back when talking to Kathrine Switzer, who tells the gripping tale of how she became the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon 50 years ago. Switzer vividly lays out the context of her pioneering move. Back then popular myth held that running caused the uterus to fall out, so “to have a woman do the marathon was somehow humbling to men’s perception of themselves”. 

Having entered the marathon (as KV Switzer), she was nearly bundled out by the race organiser – a man, naturally – only for her boyfriend to shoulder-charge him away. “Everyone loves the story,” she says, “but at the time it was very humiliating, frightening and embarrassing.” But it also made her determined to finish the race. She did so, and immediately became an icon for women’s rights.

It’s absorbing fare, a stirring look back at an era rife with startling worldviews. Moreover, Switzer’s struggle for equality again appears timely amid our contemporary upheavals. As for McDevitt, he remains understated and sympathetic, no matter that he laconically admits to trying to “bore” his guest with his own marathon stories. All things considered, Second Captains deserves its place in the first team.

Radio Moment of the Week: Cá bhfuil an nuacht?

Since arriving at RTÉ, Ray D’Arcy (RTE Radio 1, weekdays) has sometimes seemed tetchy about the presence of a nuacht bulletin on his show, especially when he has to break off an interesting item. On Wednesday, talking to a woman with Lyme disease, he decides to keep going, finally going to the newsroom five minutes later than usual. He’s greeted with dead air: for whatever reason, there’s no nuacht. After a long silence, the host ruefully mutters: “Níl sé ansin.” Still, at least D’Arcy is speaking as Gaeilge.

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