Sin­gle en­ten­dres and 2FM’s wit­less dou­ble-act dia­logue

You mightn’t tune in to 2FM for high­brow chats, but snarky ex­changes cloud the good stuff

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - ARTS & BOOKS - Mick Heaney

If, for some rea­son, you ever find your­self com­pelled to lis­ten to Break­fast Repub­lic ( 2FM, week­days), here’s a handy tip. If you tune in af­ter the 9am news bul­letin, you can go for any­thing up to 20 min­utes with­out hear­ing the pre­sen­ters speak.

On Tues­day, for ex­am­ple, there’s an un­bro­ken pas­sage of mu­sic fea­tur­ing guiltily plea­sur­able oldies from Ala­nis Mor­ris­sette, sunny R&B pop from Ri­hanna and rous­ing in­die an­thems from Ash and Pri­mal Scream. For a few mo­ments, it’s just pos­si­ble to be­lieve that Break­fast Repub­lic is an ac­cept­ably di­vert­ing mu­sic show, only for the il­lu­sion to be shat­tered when co-hosts Jen­nifer Zam­par­elli and Bernard O’Shea pipe up with their sig­na­ture line in wit­less drivel.

Even by the modest stan­dards of for­mu­laically zany break­fast ra­dio, where lift­ing a show’s name from an ob­scure 1960s band is a genre­defin­ing mas­ter­stroke (wit­ness the longevity of The Straw­berry Alarm Clock on Dublin’s FM104), 2FM’s morn­ing pro­gramme is a par­tic­u­larly dispir­it­ing of­fer­ing. The “ban­ter” of Zam­par­elli (née Maguire) and O’Shea is shouty snark, lack­ing any­thing that might pass for zingy chem­istry or cheeky hu­mour.

Their con­trived shtick has Zam­par­elli be­rat­ing O’Shea for tire­somely wacky habits. O’Shea comes un­der fire for his sup­posed fond­ness for nip­ping home while at work. “Just ad­mit it, you like get­ting on the Dart,” Zam­par­elli says, by way of a punch­line.

Oth­er­wise, the hu­mour con­sists of en­ten­dres so sin­gle their Tin­der ac­count is per­ma­nently set to swipe left. A typ­i­cal mo­ment comes dur­ing a quiz to guess the miss­ing word in a head­line, when Zam­par­elli gives a clue. “It’s long and slick and easy to ride,” she says, sound­ing im­mensely pleased with her­self.

In ad­di­tion to de­liv­er­ing such Wildean epi­grams, Zam­par­elli, who made her name as stereo­typ­i­cally self-con­fi­dent con­tes­tant on BBC re­al­ity show The Ap­pren­tice, pitches her­self as the show’s bad cop. When she’s not slag­ging her co-host, she’s chid­ing call­ers, mainly for not propos­ing mar­riage to their part­ners. O’Shea, mean­while, plays the role of the hen-pecked, re­sent­fully bristling col­league in the same spirit, talk­ing loudly in­stead of dis­play­ing comic imag­i­na­tion. There are oc­ca­sional flashes of his past as stand-up. “Throw up the hand, but not in a 1940s fas­cist way,” he quips, ask­ing for a high five. But such mo­ments are few and far be­tween.

In mit­i­ga­tion, the show’s third pre­sen­ter, Keith Walsh, is ab­sent for the week: his unas­sum­ing per­sona off­sets the shriek­ing part­ner­ship of Zam­par­elli and O’Shea, much as a glass of wa­ter makes an emetic palat­able. As it is, the duo’s joy­less stew­ard­ship brings out the most mean-spir­ited el­e­ments of the “zoo ra­dio” for­mat. To top it all, they barely even re­fer to the mu­sic on the show; the one thing that makes it bear­able, how­ever fleet­ingly.

It’s not as though 2FM lacks win­ning on-air part­ner­ships. Hav­ing proved them­selves as ir­rev­er­ent and in­ven­tive broad­cast­ers with their nightly show on the sta­tion, Chris Greene and Ciara King un­der­line their day­time ap­peal on Wed­nes­day, when they fill in as hosts of The

Eoghan McDer­mott Show ( 2FM, week­days). They ping off each other with un­forced ease, ap­proach­ing such sex­u­ally charged phrases as “Net­flix and chill” in a nicely la­conic man­ner, over the sug­ges­tive sound­track of Serge Gains­bourg’s Je t’aime. “I al­ways get ner­vous when you play that mu­sic,” King re­marks. It’s an ob­ject les­son in low-key sauci­ness that their morn­ing col­leagues might heed.

It’s not as if McDer­mott’s driv­e­time slot is usu­ally a high­brow des­ti­na­tion. On Tues­day’s show, McDer­mott, with brac­ing hon­esty, de­scribes the pro­gramme’s nor­mal bill of fare as “kind of friv­o­lous or dis­pos­able, like a Happy Meal toy”.

But for all his at­trac­tively re­laxed on-air man­ner, he is ca­pa­ble of han­dling more press­ing top­ics, as when he talks to Erica Burke, cap­tain of Kil­dare’s women’s Gaelic foot­ball team, about com­ing out. This be­ing 2FM, the in­ter­view has a zippy in­for­mal­ity to it. McDer­mott refers to his guest’s dawn­ing re­al­i­sa­tion of her sex­u­al­ity as “dis­cov­er­ing where your al­le­giances lie”, and sounds un­fazed when a stu­dio prob­lem leads to an un­sched­uled mu­si­cal in­ter­mis­sion.

But the en­counter also speaks to the iden­tity-fo­cused sen­si­bil­i­ties of 2FM’s younger tar­get au­di­ence. Burke’s con­cern is not her sex­u­al­ity – she was happy once she knew she was gay in her mid-teens – but rather the pos­si­ble re­ac­tion of her fam­ily to the news. (Thanks to the sup­port of her friends, it turns out fine.)

It may not be “as light and fluffy as usual”, but it’s a heart­en­ing item, not least be­cause it shows that some 2FM pre­sen­ters have some­thing worth­while to say.

A forgotten mu­si­cian who died young more than 30 years ago doesn’t seem like a cheery premise

for a doc­u­men­tary, but The Lyric Fea­ture – Hid­den Ground: the Mu­sic

of Jolyon Jack­son ( Lyric, Fri­day) is sur­pris­ingly up­beat in tone. This is largely be­cause Peter Curtin’s pro­gramme fo­cuses on Jack­son’s in­trigu­ing mu­sic rather than his life, which seems to have been equally in­ter­est­ing.

Jack­son was the Malayan-born son of an An­glo-Ir­ish colo­nial of­fi­cial who ar­rived in Dublin to study in Trin­ity in the 1960s, but his per­sonal back­ground re­ceives rel­a­tively scant at­ten­tion, as does his death, at age 37, from Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. In­stead, con­trib­u­tors such as Brian Master­son, Philip King and Paddy Glackin re­call Jack­son’s evo­lu­tion as in­no­va­tive mu­si­cian and com­poser, first as a rare Ir­ish pur­veyor of jazz-rock fu­sion, then as a pi­o­neer of elec­tronic-flavoured folk.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, the story tips into un­in­ten­tion­ally comic ter­ri­tory: with names such as Jazz Ther­apy and Sup­ply, De­mand & Curve, Jack­son’s bands sound straight out of The Fast Show’s jazz club skit. But his mu­sic has a re­mark­able fresh­ness, mak­ing Jack­son ripe for an over­due re­dis­cov­ery and reap­praisal, while leav­ing the poignant thought of the mu­sic he could have cre­ated, had he lived. Mean­while, in mak­ing pro­gres­sive jazz-rock sound good again, the doc­u­men­tary im­plic­itly sug­gests that all those triple-necked gui­tars and flared trousers that died in the punk-rock purges may have per­ished need­lessly.

Mu­sic is al­ways worth tun­ing into.

The ‘ban­ter’ is shouty snark, lack­ing any­thing that might pass for zingy chem­istry

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