Radio review: 'Dermot and Dave still talking loudly and saying nothing'
The Today FM duo's incessant banter is still tiresome despite their new slot
Dermot and Dave: the appeal of their show depends on one’s appetite for incessant slagging and a refusal to take anything too seriously
Seinfeld, the hit 1990s American sitcom, was famously described as a show about nothing. It’s a sobriquet that springs to mind when listening to Dermot and Dave (Today FM, weekdays), even though it probably confers an unwarranted profundity on the duo’s programme. Having recently been installed in the mid-morning slot formerly occupied by Anton Savage’s talk show, Dermot Whelan and Dave Moore haven’t changed the determinedly frivolous formula established during their previous early-afternoon iteration. To borrow another retro reference, calling their modus operandi a trivial pursuit is overly earnest.
The resolve with which the pair dissect the slightest of subjects is, in its own way, impressive. On Tuesday, they start off with a discussion on what year the Irish public “fell in love with the chicken fillet roll”. (The answer is 2005, according to Moore.) On Wednesday, the opening dialogue takes on a more ominous hue, as Moore wonders if there is “any fear like the fear of sending the wrong text message to the wrong person?” A glance over the morning papers, as practised by the duo’s predecessor, might deliver a definitive rebuttal to such speculation. Then again, shutting out the troubles of the world is crucial to their approach.
But ultimately Dermot and Dave’s appeal depends on one’s appetite for their style of banter, with its incessant slagging and refusal to take anything too seriously. As a comedic partnership, they can bounce off each other to witty effect, as when Whelan does an impression of a sullen builder who habitually orders a hash brown baguette at his local deli. “He’s quadruple carbing,” the presenter squeals in delight.
It’s just as well that they have a talent for humour, otherwise the blokey atmosphere would soon wear thin. Jocular references to having “a feed of pints” crop up, with the battle-cry of “lads” a constant refrain. The soundtrack of uptempo contemporary rap and pop, which eats up most of the airtime, provides only limited respite from such tiresome traits.
But it all helps feed into an escapist atmosphere. When the pair step outside their daft universe and engage in interviews, as with the Cork-based inventor of a new pillow or the Limerick cafe owner who gives away clothes to the homeless, the results are strangely flat and, well, boring. Which is surely a cardinal sin for a duo whose primary aim is to entertain their audience. In pursuing this aspiration, now more understandable than ever, Whelan and Moore should stick to what they’re best at: nothing.
If the partnership of Chris and Ciara (2FM, Sunday-Thursday) share essentially the same template as Dermot and Dave – cheeky patter, quirky items and phone-in quizzes, overlaid by pumping tunes – in terms of tone they are a world away, or at least a generation away. There is an exuberance to the chemistry between Chris Greene and Ciara King that suggests it’s no shtick. And if their subject matter may perplex listeners over 30 years old – an item on “biohackers” is not science fiction but rather an interview with a man whose implanted microchips allow him to access his office and car – it surely underlines their credentials with their station’s target audience.
The gender dynamic is another obvious characteristic of the pairing, though having worked together for many years, neither Greene nor King feel the need refer to it much. Still, Greene occasionally falls into the stereotype of the shouty male, constantly projecting his voice as if he’s in a crowded pub rather than a studio. Meanwhile King’s delivery comes complete with the unstudied tics of everyday conversation: during a brief conversation on pampered Saudi Arabian falcons (it’s a long story), she uses the word “seemingly” half a dozen times. It’s as if received pronunciation took its cue from lunchtime chats at Starbucks.
If the pair aren’t chatting aimlessly to each other – a valuable trait in all on-air partnerships, eating up airtime as it does – a raucous air prevails, even during more structured items. Take Aifric O’Connell’s Tuesday night slot, in which archive clips from the 1980s are replayed with the same sense of disbelieving wonder usually reserved for ancient Egyptian artefacts. There’s a recording of a US-based nun who says taking a skydive with a “lovely” Puerto Rican marine allowed her to overcome “anything that would come up in my life”. “I’d say something came up all right,” shrieks King, as the others collapse in titters. Not for nothing was the show originally called Bottom of the Barrel.
That said, there are unexpected moments of insight and even reflection, courtesy of rapper Blindboy Boatclub, from satirical Limerick hip-hop act the Rubberbandits. A regular guest on the show, Blindboy talks with a disarming sincerity about how he started playing music, while dispensing pithy but practical tips on songwriting. “A rhyme is like a drumbeat,” he muses.
Blindboy also has some perceptive observations about creativity in the digital age, noting that thanks to the internet, young people aren’t bored enough to pick up instruments. “Instead of forming a band, they have social media distracting them,” he remarks. “If you want an art movement, you have to have bored people.”
It’s a downbeat vista, but there’s something encouraging about Blindboy’s astute views being heard in such an unlikely setting. For all their irreverence, Chris and Ciara may be on to something.
Radio Moment of the Week: Céad Míle Fáilte?
Following last week’s understated but powerful edition on Auschwitz, the latest Drama on One: Flight Risk (RTÉ Radio 1, Sunday) provides a quietly absorbing but deeply felt take on a contemporary issue, namely Ireland’s policy on asylum seekers. Written by producer Kevin Brew, the short play follows Elizabeth (Ellie Kisayombe) as she flies into Dublin. As she drifts in and out of sleep, she has nightmares about her past in Zimbabwe, dreams about a new life in Ireland and well-founded fears about where she will actually end up. It’s an imaginative work of conscience. “No need for 100,000 welcomes,” says Elizabeth, “just one.”