Sunday 17 December 2017

Playing with the Voice of Doom

The Business (RTE1)
Charlie Bird (RTE1)
Prince Andrew (The News)

I WASN'T exactly listening to George Lee's radio programme The Business, it's more that I overheard a bit of it, when I was passing a room. Even at that distance, what I heard sent a shot of pure pity through my heart.

He seemed to be doing an item from a toy shop in Galway. Maybe it was an executive toy shop. Maybe it was just a plain toy shop. And I thought: he doesn't deserve this.

Whatever he's done, it can't have been so terrible that they're still sending George Lee out there to do his community service, when there is an economic war going on, and he is so badly needed at the front.

Whatever he's done, enough is enough. Because they have been decontaminating him for a year now, and frankly, it seems like they're enjoying it. Indeed they're enjoying it so much, any day now we will expect to see George stepping in to present Tellybingo, calling out the numbers and beaming at all the old folks with that new smile of his, that strangely sad smile.

Now there is a television version of The Business, and last week George could be seen visiting this new company which makes these ingenious houses and other forms of playful cardboard objects for children. Jean-Claude Trichet is out there, telling us what to do, and they're still sending George Lee to the toy department.

It's not that he's doing it badly, or anything, it's just that there are plenty of enthusiastic young hacks out there who would be a tad more convincing at this upbeat vibe, naturally high about the prospects for these exciting new ventures, adding a little dash of Prozac to our depressing economic diet.

George was the man who tried to get us off the Prozac in the first place, and now they expect him to be striking an optimistic note, talking up the economy, or whatever remains of it.

This man used to terrify the people of Ireland. His voice was dreaded and his authority was absolute. And now they have him out there telling us that the glass is half-full, making all these unnatural noises, just because he turned out not to be The Messiah after all.

It is not just morally wrong, it is wrong in a journalistic sense, and it is wrong for the country. RTE should know by now that there are very few things in this world that work properly on television, and that one of those things was George Lee as the Voice of Doom.

They should also know that you mess with these things at your peril, that there is a kind of a mystery about them. And that you don't throw it all away just for the sake of appearances. But then, in many areas of public life, things are done, not because they are good, but because someone thinks they will look good.

The pointless gesture is made, the executive ass is covered. And so George languishes in these happy little places, far from the land that he loves.

Weirdly, he might well have bumped into his old soul brother Charlie Bird, on his recent rambles in Erin.

Charlie too was out there meeting the people, getting a few harmless pre-election quotes out of them, and generally trying to get his mojo back after his depressing sojourn in America.

Charlie too, was once feared. Only a few days ago, it seems, even bankers used to get a bit worried when they saw these men coming.

And then they tried to develop, to grow as professionals and as people, with the result that at this moment of dire emergency, George can now be seen raising a glass of blonde ale in a little brewery in Dungarvan, while Charlie is enjoying the banter in a tattoo parlour in Arklow.

Partly, I suspect, it is the very nature of their trade which makes it so difficult for these top men of TV news to expand into other areas, and become all-round entertainers. There is something fiercely one-dimensional at the very core of what they do. These guys make the one-trick pony look like Champion the Wonder Horse.

Yet that one trick is a good trick, and not every pony, as it were, can do it.

No doubt George would smile at the irony that of all the dire predictions he made, he could never have foreseen himself and Charlie Bird doing what they're doing in 2011.

Perhaps in the utter improbability of it all, there is something to cling to, for Ireland.

"Who knows how it will all turn out?" I said to myself recently when Prince Andrew was seen on the News, and I noticed for the first time the remarkable resemblance between the prince and the late entertainer Joe Dolan.

I wonder are they by any chance related?

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