| 17.7°C Dublin

The camera steals my soul, O'Connor steals the show

My attitude to appearing on television is similar to that of a tribesman up the Amazon who believes that the people taking his picture for the National Geographic are stealing his soul.

I know exactly where that tribesman is coming from, how he feels diminished by the experience. I feel about as comfortable in a TV studio as said tribesman would feel if he was dressed up in a pin-striped suit and put on display in the front window of Brown Thomas.

With all those RTE people standing around doing things that I don't understand, in a "space" that always seems about 40 times too big for comfort, I just can't be myself. And worse, I can't even pretend to be myself.

The Bunny Carr schools may offer guidance, but ultimately you are either good on television or you are not.

That camera either brings out whatever attractive qualities that you possess, or it buries them.

And if you're not good on television, you feel a sort of moral failure -- perhaps we have come to revere the god of TV to such a degree, we feel it is our moral duty to be good on it. And if we are bad, we are not just bad on TV, we feel that we are bad people.

Like our friend the tribesman having his picture taken, the TV process has somehow siphoned off our souls.

All of which is a roundabout way of expressing my deep envy of my colleague Brendan O'Connor, who is good on television. It is a handy thing for any newspaperman to discover that he can present The Apprentice: You're Fired in an entirely convincing fashion.

And frankly I don't know why exactly he is good on television, except to say that he manages to be himself -- or at least he manages to convey some version of himself which works despite all the paraphernalia -- in this case a TV3 set which looks strangely like the village hall after the bingo; a contestant who has just been fired by Bill and who may well have nothing of any interest to say; and a panel of three people who could be anything.

O'Connor has to ride this bucking bronco, all the way. And he does it, like a professional of many years standing.

He has to control that brute, so that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. And he does it, like a man.

It is not fair. None of this is fair.

I AM getting in touch with my anger here, as you can sense. If I am not careful I will end up on Pat Kenny's Frontline, which oddly reminded me of my one happy experience in television -- this was the World Cup Forum in 1994, which was set up like Frontline, with the top guys at the top table, and the rest of us sitting in a studio audience making highly intelligent observations.

Personally, I never went on that show without several beers inside me, cheerfully supplied at the bar in the RTE green room. Beer, I have found, is the one thing that makes the stress of the TV studio melt away, at least for the performer -- for the viewer, the horror is just beginning.

And I gave up drinking soon after that, which automatically scuppered what dreams I had of TV stardom. Or at least, it put them on hold...

Eamon Dunphy has mastered the medium with or without beer.

So as he sat in the front row on Frontline, he was entitled to make a point about the two bigshots who were sitting at the top table for the discussion on Nama -- Pat Farrell representing the bankers, the same Pat who used to represent FF; and Tom Parlon representing the builders, the same Tom who used to represent the PDs.

Indeed, I heard Parlon recently referring to some scheme as a "no-brainer", at which point I knew it must be a brainer. And a big brainer at that.

Dunphy spoke of the nexus of politics and banking and building -- not to mention the sexus and the plexus.

But what kind of country is it anyway, that has guys like Parlon and Farrell in the comfy chairs for the big-swinging-mickeys, and a guy like Dunphy in the cheap seats?

IT'S a country that has gone so wrong, my remarks last week about the flakiness of RTE sports bulletins were followed by a reading of the football results on the radio as follows : "Bolton 1, Stoke City 1 -- a Draw".

We received both the scoreline of every match which ended in a draw last Saturday, and the helpful reminder that it was "a draw". While it is useful to clarify that a GAA match has ended in a draw, what with a goal being worth three points, it was never before deemed necessary to state that when a football team scores the same number of goals as another football team, it is a draw.

Comment is superfluous.