Sunday 17 December 2017

Grave doubts about the spirits of radio

On Wednesday, Tubridy had an unexpected guest: Gerry Ryan. This was disconcerting. But he wasn't the only surprising visitor. Psychic medium Catherine McDonnell had, by the time Gerry arrived, already populated the studio with several people from beyond the grave.

These included revolutionary Fianna Failer Todd Andrews (Ryan Tubridy's deceased granddad), a mysterious man wearing dungarees and wielding a saw (a ghost saw), a cheerful fellow munching a bar of chocolate (ghost chocolate) and a couple of dogs (ghost dogs, formerly owned by a caller).

Catherine explained how as a child she would see dead people. She would confide this to her grandmother, a kindly soul who, I suspect, couldn't bring herself to say, "actually Catherine, that's just the postman".


Finding she quite enjoyed seeing dead people/pretending to see dead people (select one), she undertook Psychic Studies at Lord Chancey's Clown College for Makey-Up Subjects (that wasn't the real name of the college) and now her life is spent cold-reading the bereaved for things they desperately want to hear.

"Is it offensive to you then if people say 'you know, to be honest with you Catherine, I think you're just making a quick buck'?" asked Ryan. By "people" I suspect he meant himself, but Ryan is a populist who knows hokum goes down well with some people, so he didn't press this.

Instead Catherine was let loose on vulnerable listeners. She informed a lady that a ghostly hand stroking hers at night was, in fact, her deceased mother. She reunited a sister with her dead brothers. She attempted to engineer a rapprochement between one caller and his deceased father. It was like The Jeremy Kyle Show for the undead.

While Ryan asked the callers real world questions ("Why are you so angry about your dad?"), Catherine was more inclined to throw out open-ended statements. "[Your father] was a bit cold to your family in life," she said to a man who had just described how his deceased father was a bit cold to his family in life. "You miss her an awful lot," she said to one lady who misses her mother a lot.

After a while she dropped her bombshell. "I do feel Gerry Ryan is here," she said. "I do feel he's very much here with Ryan Tubridy. He's patting him on the back."

It felt like a disappointingly hesitant stab at emotional manipulation. As Catherine spends her time rifling through the grief of others anyway, I couldn't see any reason for subtlety. I mean, she could have gone the whole hog with: "Gerry Ryan is here. He's doing a human pyramid with Bobby Sands and Mother Teresa!" or how about: "Gerry Ryan is here . . . AND HE'S RIDING SHERGAR!". One way or another, if Ryan was upset by hearing his friend evoked like this, he kept his feelings hypothetical. "What about if people found it upsetting that you'd said that?" he asked. "That they feel that it might be distasteful." Yes, people might. What he himself felt, however, he kept to himself.

Phantom FM has a new Monday morning show based around the inane stream of consciousness babbling of Jason Byrne. I don't often listen to radio while banging my head off the window and muttering "shutupshutupshutup!" (well, not that often).


Byrne read texts from disgruntled listeners ("For eff's sake would you play some music", read one) waffled about "walls" (the theme of the episode) and did funny voices. In a way I respect his full-frontal assault on sensible broadcasting, but in another deeper way: shutupshutupshutup!

For my stream of consciousness babbling I'll stick to financial discussions with Marian Finucane. On Sunday, Brian Lucey's learned explanation of payments between the Central Bank and Anglo could have come from Flann O'Brien. I was also fascinated by Dr Moosajee Bhamjee's sincere suggestion on Saturday that we add lithium to the drinking water. Why not LSD? Then we'd all see dead people.

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