Love is in the air in the run-up to St Valentine’s Day, as Ryan Tubridy (2FM, weekdays) is smitten with all things amorous. Whether hearing dating tips, discussing romantic destinations or flirting with callers, his tail is up, with the presenter exuding an easy on-air confidence and sounding the better for it.
Tuesday’s newspaper round-up is a case in point. When he’s not going off on an elaborately constructed riff equating his show’s carefully calibrated playlist with the Soviet Politburo or doing his Charles Haughey impressions – the kind of millennial-friendly references sure to attract the funky 15- to 24-year-olds that 2FM so covets – Tubridy is lightly mocking the celebrity dilemmas of Nadia Forde. Reading the jet-setting model’s quote that men are too afraid to ask her out, Tubridy lampoons her first-world problem, not to mention her diction: “She just needs to, like, stop travelling so you can just be in the same place for more than, like, two minutes, and they’ll maybe like you a bit more, like.”
Still, the latter nugget prompts a call from Evija, a single Latvian-born lab technician who feels that men are intimidated by her blond looks. Oddly enough, Tubridy is more sympathetic in this case. When his guest tells the presenter, “You’re not too bad yourself,” you can’t help feeling that he wishes he could turn off the microphone there and then.
The romantic thread takes on a carnal edge as the show progresses, whether it’s the author Blake Lavak dispensing advice for women on how to “own that guy” or a caller, Anne, claiming that Copper Face Jacks, the Dublin nightclub famed for boozy face-guzzling, is the most romantic place in Ireland. The latter statement prompts an incredulous reaction. “Ah, for . . . What?” Tubridy splutters. After Anne explains that she met her husband there, the host admits he has been in the club only once, “as a social experiment”.
It’s all gossamer-light fare, but Tubridy’s relaxed air and nerdy instincts sustain the attention. And he tackles more serious matters without lapsing into portentousness. Mary Nevin, a night nurse for the Irish Cancer Society, tells how she helps care for terminally ill patients during their last days at home. It is a thoughtful discussion about a difficult but unavoidable subject. “We’re hard-wired to think about life,” Nevin says.
She speaks with a reassuring calm, imbuing accounts of her working life with a patina of wisdom. “I’ve never met someone who felt they should have worked more,” is one telling line. When she recounts helping a girl give her unconscious mother a hand massage, Tubridy cannot hide his profound sadness, although he feels he should be buoyed by Nevin’s repeated references to dignity and, yes, love. But the host cannily avoids being too maudlin. Tubridy has to fill more than two hours of airtime a day; at the moment he has an effortless appeal that means you hardly notice it.
There’s no love lost on The Right Hook (Newstalk, weekdays) when George Hook talks to the Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy about his arrest on Monday morning. The presenter displays a palpable antipathy to his guest, not so much in his aggressive questioning – that is Hook’s prerogative – as in the heightened formality that the normally garrulous presenter adopts.
Referring to Murphy’s detention on charges relating to protests in Jobstown that saw Tánaiste Joan Burton trapped in her car, Hook asks if the deputy felt threatened when “your freedom was denied you for a number of hours”. When Murphy says the gardaí were polite, Hook asks, “Why didn’t you afford the same politeness to the Tánaiste?” Thereafter, any vestiges of reasoned debate go out the window.
Hook says he supports peaceful protest as practised by Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. He then takes a sharp right, comparing the recent haranguing of President Michael D Higgins by water-charge protesters with the outlandish idea of King chasing President Johnson. Audibly taken aback, Murphy says Hook’s approach is “outrageous” and “a disgrace”, but the presenter is undeterred. When Murphy says the protesters who barracked the Tánaiste were not his supporters, Hook wonders aloud, “Who are your supporters?”
Murphy mentions the presenter’s Fine Gael loyalties and Denis O’Brien’s ownership of Newstalk. When Hook mentions that he demonstrated against apartheid, Murphy asks if he supported Gandhi’s sit-down tactics. “Well, I was a child of six; it was a bit difficult,” comes Hook’s withering reply.
Murphy can come across as a didactic ideologue, but his assertion that the arrest of a public representative by six gardaí represents “political policing” merits more than Hook’s knee-jerk pooh-poohing. The host’s annoyance at the treatment of the President in particular is genuine, but his anger rebounds on him. There’s a thin line between controversialist and crank.
Murphy’s appearance on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) is more illuminating. Mary Wilson, its host, seeks out the possible reasons for the arrest in her respectful but firm classroom manner, in the process adding a nice counterpoint to the deputy’s excitable tendencies. In this instance she shows better judgment than Hook.
Moment of the Week: Moncrieff's broken-hearts club
Not renowned for his romantic persona, even Sean Moncrieff (Newstalk, weekdays) isn't immune to affairs of the heart as St Valentine's Day beckons. Except that Moncrieff's interview with the author Rob Dunn is literally about the heart. The pair discuss the maverick pioneers of cardiology, starting with Werner Forssman, the doctor who put a catheter into his own heart, and ending up talking about the "beetles that live in cow poop" that proved the key to successful cardiac transplants. Not for the faint-hearted. Talk about a heartbreaker.