After a toe-curling first show on Radio 2, Romesh Ranganathan should take a leaf out of Steve Wright’s book

Romesh Ranganathan's new Radio 2 show
Romesh Ranganathan's new Radio 2 show - BBC

Oh dear. It all started so promisingly for Romesh Ranganathan on his first show as Claudia Winkleman’s replacement on Radio 2. Slots don’t come much bigger than the flagship Saturday 10am to 1pm programme, and the 46-year-old comedian admitted he was nervous. But he kicked things off strongly ­­– he was personable and had our goodwill ­– so it was a shame that things unravelled into a show that felt undercooked and, at times, chaotic.

Perhaps Ranganathan had too much on his plate over the weekend. His show was sandwiched between stand-up gigs in Brighton on Friday and Saturday nights and him running the London Marathon on Sunday. But as the late Steve Wright taught us, it takes meticulous preparation to sound effortless on air. More work is required by the former Maths teacher.

The glaring issue was Ranganathan’s relationship with much-loved show staple Sally Boazman, AKA Sally Traffic. Prior to the show Ranganathan said his “key objective” was winning over Boazman. “If she doesn’t like me, you know which one of us is going,” he told Radio Times. Hmm.

Romesh Ranganathan and 'Sally Traffic' during his morning show
Romesh Ranganathan and 'Sally Traffic' during his morning show - Jamie Simonds

Their early interaction was sweet. Hip hop-loving Ranganathan presented her with a pair of custom trainers decorated with pictures of her favourite motorway service station (Tebay) and her favourite motorway (M40). The nice touch suggested that a warm, maternal relationship could be on the cards. But then Ranganathan’s comedy partner (and fellow Radio 2 presenter) Rob Beckett turned up.

The pair “bantzed” over Boazman’s traffic report. It was toe-curling. “This is a nightmare… I’m going to hit you in a minute… I’m so sorry, listeners,” she said. “You didn’t get this with Claudia, did you?” said Beckett. “No. Please come back,” Boazman replied, not even trying to make it sound like a joke. She told the boys they needed their bottoms smacked. The mother had become an angry headmistress. (Her and Ranganathan had a love-in at the end, but it smacked of rearguard action).

Ranganathan with friend Rob Beckett on his Radio 2 show
Ranganathan with friend Rob Beckett on his Radio 2 show - BBC

The new features showed potential but need work. A game called Family Three Tunes (a pun on Family Fortunes) saw three members of the same family choose their favourite song. Boazman then spun a wheel to decide which track was played. Fine. But there surely needs to be an element of competition, peril or dirt-dishing? Otherwise it’s just pot luck. Another piece of furniture, Pitch Your Passion, saw two callers vie for the most interesting niche interest. It was OK but felt inconsequential. One thing that definitely needs to be axed was an idea from the first caller, Henry from Preston. Henry suggested that, due to one of Ranganathan’s jobs as the presenter of The Weakest Link, people shout “Bank!” at him every time they greeted him. And they did. A lot.

The music was good, ranging from Go West and Chic to Blur. There was a smattering of Ranganathan’s beloved hip hop (Outkast, Pras and Arrested Development). Only once did the presenter of For The Love of Hip Hop podcast get overly geeky about his passion, telling listeners a fact about rapper ODB (Ol’ Dirty Bastard) that 99 per cent of them wouldn’t care about. Ranganathan’s actual mother also came on. She could be an enjoyable regular guest – she sounded wonderful – but she slightly undermined things by admitting that she hadn’t listened to her son’s first show.

I hope everything settles. Radio 2 is already in danger of becoming too “laddy” what with Vernon Kay on weekdays and Paddy McGuinness’s imminent arrival on Sunday mornings. The show needs more warmth and substance and less clamour. Ranganathan needs to read the room a bit more astutely and get decent, interesting guests on. He could be great. Luckily for him, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Listen to Romesh Ranganathan on Radio 2 on Saturdays between 10am and 1pm