Mills stays a step ahead of 'The Late Late Show'
The Late Late Show, RTE 1
* St Patrick's Day Festival, RTE 1
One of the most enduring sources of entertainment for those who like to give RTE a good kicking is the salaries of its stars. Of course, the people most appreciative of such quibbling are those Montrose mandarins who have proved rather adept at using this public resentment as a handy negotiating tactic whenever it's time to talk about a new contract.
Of all reasons to stick the boot in to the national broadcaster - and they are legion - the wages commanded by the upper echelon of presenters is actually the weakest.
Just because someone works for a public broadcaster doesn't mean they are a public servant and the shrill refrain that 'we pay their wages' through the license fee is simply inaccurate. No, your license fee pays for the RTE Orchestra, RnaG and the various boondoggles which would cease to exist if we weren't legally bullied into forking out 160 quid every year.
When it comes to the salaries of the 'stars' (and what a dim constellation that must be), you are simply looking at the market at work - self-employed people who have an obligation to get the best deal they can.
In fact, we tend to look on RTE presenters in much the same way the average English football fan looks on Premiership footballers - through a prism of resentment and envy.
I was thinking about this when sitting through the weekly dose of penance that is The Late Late and I was hit by the realisation, which arrived halfway through a car crash of an interview with Heather Mills, that Ryan Tubridy must spend most Friday evenings sitting in a studio thinking that he just isn't paid enough for this shit.
Yes, I know by the standards of everyone else, he's on great money. But as he floundered in the face of her weird, glacial refusal to accept that the only reason people have any vague interest in her is because she's the bird who took Macca to the cleaners, it was hard not to feel a degree of sympathy.
How can you interview someone who looks and behaves like she's being interrogated in a police cell?
Should he have laughed? Should he, like music fans everywhere, have simply started shouting at this mad woman for the things she was saying? Nope, he did none of that. Instead he showed a degree of professionalism which most of his peers would have struggled to attain.
The thing is, though, people don't really want to watch professionalism on a Friday night. They want entertainment.
As grimly amusing as it was to watch Mills remind us of just why she is so hated by so many people, this was one of those moments that had 'Marquee' written all over it. After all, when you have a woman whose main achievement is to supplant Yoko Ono as the most loathed of the Beatles' wives, it's not too much to expect a bit of pyrotechnics. Hell, even a sarcastic snort would have done.
Instead, Tubridy stuck to the safer option of letting her speak or, depending on your point of view, simply letting her hang herself.
As she uttered such gems as: "I don't really want this interview to be all about Paul...
"I agreed to come on the show so it wasn't just all about Paul," or my personal favourite: "If I go down the street all I get is kids coming up to me and half of them don't even know who he is.
"That's why he's got to do songs with Rihanna and Kanye West, so people remember," it was hard to tell whether he was acting as an interviewer or simply as a counsellor for some pathologically deluded and strikingly unpleasant fantasist.
That's the problem with the Late Late and its presenter - he is just too nice to the celebrities. And 'nice' just doesn't cut it on the country's most venerable TV show.
The interview was pre-recorded, but even the questions felt like they had been pre-approved - unlikely, I know. But the whole item was so bland, so timid, so vanilla, it looked as if he was worried that she would stomp off stage in a self-righteous strop.
Well, the Bee Gees did that to Clive Anderson and it didn't do his career any harm.
Maybe he has been stung by recent criticism of his handling of the Paul Murphy interview. But between the kid-glove treatment of Mills and his disgraceful soft-ball treatment of the Halawa sisters on the previous item, this was a show that was begging for a bang.
Instead it got a simper.
There was simpering aplenty during RTE's reliably terrible coverage of the Patrick's Day parade.
We've become well used to seeing Paddy's Day become an excuse for appalling behaviour on our streets and it is, obviously, a source of deep national embarrassment.
Sure, one might have expected our national broadcaster to take a dim view of such anti-social types. Far from it. In fact, RTE actually encourages boorish behaviour and the unnecessary hassling of innocent tourists who only came here for a bit of fun.
They certainly don't expect to be ambushed in such a brutal and, frankly, confusing manner.
I'm referring to two of the city's most unrepentant Paddy's Day recidivists, who run riot in the same place at the same time every year and leave a sour taste in everyone's mouth.
Known by their street names of Aido and Blawny (actually they're probably not, but it's my column so shut up), Aidan Power and Blathnaid ni Chofaigh continue to stalk our capital city, hopping on unsuspecting visitors and then shamelessly mugging for the cameras.
When will this madness end?
If I paid my licence fee, I'd be demanding a refund.