Something's gone wrong ... and it's not my fault
I know that none of you care about the trials and tribulations of live TV and you probably think I am overpaid for doing something any of you could do better. Putting all that aside, I had an interesting moment -- a few moments actually -- before Christmas when the whole transmission went down a few times in the middle of The Saturday Night Show.
It's very casual when it happens. There is no sound of a fuse exploding or that sound of machinery shutting down that you would expect in a power cut in a film. It just happens.
Ciaran the floor manager just looks calmly at you and tells you to stop. "We're off the air". And you're not supposed to talk because anything you say could be going out on air or could start going out on air any minute.
I think it was the fact that Ciaran and the crew seemed so calm at the time that calmed me. He was, like, basically, just wait. There is nothing we can do. And suddenly you get that wonderful feeling. Something has gone wrong. The biggest problem you could imagine. The screen has gone blank in hundreds of thousands of houses throughout the country. AND IT'S NOT MY FAULT.
Once you absorb that final, critical piece of information, you're laughing. You are literally laughing. It makes you giddy. To contemplate the enormity of it all and then realise that it is not your fault and there's nothing you can do.
Generally, when you are on live TV, you are highly sensitive to anything going wrong. On one level you are relaxed-ish, trying to enjoy the chat and be in the moment. But on the other hand your feet are pedalling furiously under the water as your unconscious keeps telling you: "Don't f**k up, don't f**k up, don't f**k up, the next thing that comes out of your mouth could be disastrous".
So I won't say it is a happy moment when something catastrophic (in TV terms) happens and it's not your fault. But I'll put it like this. Think of the feeling you get when you are on a plane, locked in a metal tube with a load of people and when you know that any of your fellow passengers who don't have small kids hate your children, because they are already ruining everyone's holiday.
And then think of how you feel when someone else's kid goes absolutely radio rental, complete meltdown. It is almost music to your ears. Someone's kid is ruining this for everyone, including me, but that doesn't matter, because it's not my kid.
You will find that in those situations it is always other parents of small children who are most sympathetic. They are sympathetic to some extent because they know that there but for the grace of God go them. But mainly they feel smug and grateful. Suddenly their kids are like Lord and Lady Fauntleroys compared to the melty one and they are suddenly the parents of the year next to you.
Every parent hates that smug sympathy. They hate it because it implies that they are the family from Shameless. If it was a game of poker, they would be the suckers. That's why we all love it so much when we see someone else being the sucker. Because that means it's not you.
This is an inbuilt reaction in people, programmed into us. From a young age my kids had meltdown gaydar. They could sense a meltdown from half-a-mile and would watch smugly, staring in wonder at this feral child, as if this was behaviour they would never consider themselves. They might even be bold enough to ask: "Why is that boy crying?" To which you would be tempted to reply: "Presumably for the same mysterious non-reason that you occasionally freak out, darling."
Sometimes they will content themselves with a simple, angelic: "That girl is really freaking out, isn't she Daddy?"
The bottom line is that it not being your fault is one of the less explored routes to fleeting happiness. In fact it's going to be one of my New Year's Resolutions. Enjoying that it's not my fault.