Radio review: From selfies to ‘Streetcar’ through steamy days and streaming rain

Louise McSharry’s exploration of light topics makes her an engaging stand-in for Ryan Tubridy on 2fm

Queen of the ‘selfies’: Louise McSharry’s programme, on 2fm, explored the history of online self-portraiture from the MySpace age right up to the  narcissism of Rihanna, above. Photograph: Lionel Cironneau

Queen of the ‘selfies’: Louise McSharry’s programme, on 2fm, explored the history of online self-portraiture from the MySpace age right up to the narcissism of Rihanna, above. Photograph: Lionel Cironneau

Sat, Jul 27, 2013, 06:00

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but on Monday morning there was an intelligent and entertaining conversation about an element of popular culture on 2fm.

Louise McSharry, a decent broadcaster who has been hiding in a weekend slot, was, surprisingly, selected by 2fm management to fill Ryan Tubridy’s morning programme for a fortnight. Her approach was immediately apparent: maintain engagement with the audience through a raft of competitions, but steer Summer with Louise towards a more internet- savvy audience who get their current affairs in website chunks and commuter freesheets.

The main topic of discussion was around the phenomenon of
“selfies”: self-portraits posted on social-networking sites. Attaching relevance to things that appear initially superficial and frivolous is the first stop in prising open the locks of popular culture, and it often leads to greater discoveries about ourselves.

Studio guest Conor Behan took the reins of the selfie discussion and lurched into action, tracking the history of online self-portraiture from the MySpace age right up to Rihanna’s narcissism.

It was funny and informative. If you were an expert on selfie culture, you went away entertained; if you hadn’t a bog’s notion about “duckface” or Snapchat, you felt informed. The item was followed up with a selfie competition on 2fm’s Facebook page.

It’s not like 2fm to take a punt on a relatively unknown presenter for such a high-profile gig, but it has proven to be a risk worth taking.

That said, speaking of the young ’uns, who could blame you if you didn’t listen to any radio at all this week? Why run the risk of touching that dial when the Avicii featuring Aloe Blacc song, Wake Me Up, is so ubiquitous?

You know what I’m talking about. It’s the answer to the question that nobody asked: what would happen if Cotton-Eyed Joe arose from a graveyard of Mumford and Sons B-sides in order to commit unholy mass slaughter at Funderland? A song that signals the end of music – and possibly civilisation; it’s a little too early to tell – spits violently from each radio setting in your app, car or kitchen at every moment of the day.


Pleasant nostalgia
On another tip of thankfully far more pleasant nostalgia, Arena (RTÉ Radio 1, Wednesday) took a different tactic in previewing A Streetcar Named Desire, which is on at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.

Evelyn O’Rourke ran through a biography of Tennessee Williams peppered with interview clips from Williams himself, a 1951 radio recording of The Glass Menagerie, and a comprehensive assessment of Streetcar, its success and cultural impact.

“She’s surviving with grace,” Kenneth Holditch said, ending the package with a remark Williams passed when asked how his hospital-bound sister was doing. Williams himself, we were informed, suffered a far less graceful death at the Elysee Hotel in New York in 1983.


Break in the heatwave
In the slightly less steamy climate of Ireland in July 2013, weather continues to be a hot topic but it’s difficult to shoehorn into a discussion, aside from presenters rabbiting on about barbecues and beach raves. On The Last Word (Today FM, Thursday), a break in the heatwave constituted news.

No one could shed any light on the fact that the rain that pockets of Ireland experienced on Wednesday night was what I call “movie rain”: the type of rain that Andie MacDowell fails to notice while embracing you.

Pat Buckley, an animated councillor from Midleton, Co Cork, detailed the preparation the flood-prone town had taken. Meanwhile, back in Dublin, Clerys department store had closed due to water damage, or perhaps more excitingly, a lightning strike, Conor Feehan of the Evening Herald said. “The nature of things is that the water will come through the top and find its way all the way down the building,” he explained.

I like to picture Feehan saying this wearing a lab coat and pointing at some inexplicable PowerPoint slides, while a group of meteorologists gather around, like actors in a TV ad inspecting the experimental stains on a shirt in a Vanish factory, making notes and nudging their frameless glasses up the bridges of their noses. Rain comes from up there, the laser pointer indicates, and then goes down there.

Ultimately, though, Feehan made weather sound interesting on radio. But one listener wasn’t happy. “Of course rain in Dublin is newsworthy,” an exasperated texter moaned. “We were in Cork before we were in Dublin,” Cooper retorted, smacking down the complaint.

I have a lot of sympathy for radio hosts who have to deal with the inspid whining ticker of text messages on a studio computer screen. Cooper should have played Avicii as punishment.


radioreview@irishtimes.com


Mick Heaney is on leave

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