Friday 14 December 2018

Pat Stacey: No surprise Tubs is flailing - he was never the right fit for the 2fm slot

There was always something a little curious about Ryan Tubridy's decision to fill the 2fm slot -- or at least fill two-thirds of it -- left vacant by the death of his close friend Gerry Ryan.

The fact that Tubridy decided, apparently with little warning to his colleagues and friends in RTE, and none at all to the listeners, to kick off his new show three days ahead of schedule (on a Friday rather than the following Monday, as planned) simply added to the overall sense of strangeness.

It was slightly surreal, in fact, because Tubridy is a seasoned pro at this stage and radio broadcasting is something that has to be planned down to the last detail.

It was as if Tubridy felt he had a duty to do something for his old pal. To carry the torch. To be the custodian of his legacy. To occupy the hallowed ground previously occupied by Ryan in order to protect it from those who might ruin it.

In fact, the last thing Tubridy's shift to 2fm seemed to be was a good career move. Like it or not, he was Radio 1 man to the core. His previous, one-hour show was a modest, slightly quirky affair; a buffer between the hard news of Morning Ireland and the hard analysis of Today With Pat Kenny.

Tubridy was the no man's land, the radio rest room: a place where you could go for an hour to relax with a coffee and a biscuit, and be sure there would be nothing too taxing --or indeed anything too irreverent -- to interrupt your morning routine.

There might be some discussion about books; a bit of the lounge lizardy music he so adores, and some chatter with guests. It was usually split into two parts, with two distinct subjects per show.

In other words, it was nothing at all like The Gerry Ryan Show, a three-hour, anything-goes extravaganza of freewheeling nonsense and sometimes more serious, hard-hitting and provocative stuff. It was a unique mix and nobody -- least of all Tubridy -- pretended it could ever be replicated by a different host.

And yet, he took the job anyway. The new show immediately shed 25,000 of Ryan's old listeners. RTE said this was to be expected; it was a transition period and many of them would most likely return.

They haven't returned, though. In fact, the latest JNLR figures show that Today FM's Ray D'Arcy Show is now pulling in more listeners than Tubridy. Only by a nose, though. Only by a few thousand, which isn't much when you say it quickly.

Yet it's not the JNLR figures alone that RTE should be worrying about. It's the fact that Tubridy, for all his undoubtedly good intentions and all his proven talent, hasn't quite fit into the slot. He's too Radio 1 for it.

The truth is that 2fm lost whatever identity, whatever purpose it had, years ago. Gerry Ryan was the glue holding the whole station together.

Tubridy's real audience, meanwhile, the middle-aged, middle-class demographic to whom he seems to appeal most (a fact shown by the boosted viewing figures for the rather stodgy Late Late Show), are still back on Radio 1, where John Murray is filling Tubridy's old slot.

He's doing a good job, too. The show is solid, even safe stuff, yet it boasts the frequent bursts of irreverence, particularly in Murray's opening comic review of what's happening in the world, that made previous programme Radio 1's The Business on Saturday mornings fun, even for those of us with no interest in business.

Though Murray is actually older than Tubridy, he might have been a good choice for a shot at the Gerry Ryan slot. He'll never BE Gerry Ryan, of course.

Then again, neither will Ryan Tubridy. And that, in essence, is what's going wrong.

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