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Older... but no wiser, Gaybo

Hitting your 70s can be a licence to be as irascible and irreverent as you wish. I mean, who's going to tell you off? Your elders? Take 74-year-old Terry Wogan, for example. With nothing left to prove, Wogan has been more mischievously outspoken and entertaining in recent years than at any time in his long career.

Still, sometimes the freedom that age coupled with decades of television fame confers on a person can come across as sulky, sour-faced cantankerousness. Witness this week's bizarre and presumably unsolicited outburst from Gay Byrne.

Byrne (78) leapt to the defence of Ryan Tubridy, following news that The Late Late Show's audience had dropped from 713,000 for the new season's first show, which featured Katie Taylor and our other Olympic medal-winning boxers, to 572,700 for the second, which didn't have any really big-name guests to speak of.

Whether Tubridy actually needed anyone to leap to his defence is a moot point. The Late Late Show was still the most-watched programme on Irish television last week.

Nonetheless, Byrne got stuck in anyway, claiming that "begrudgery" of Tubridy's €373,000 a year is the reason why some people are so hard on him.

"There is begrudgery towards me and Ryan because people see what we do as something they would do for nothing" he said. "They perceive glamour, but they don't see the work that goes into it."

Let's pause for a moment and analyse that sentence, in all its staggeringly arrogant, patronising glory.


Firstly, I don't think anyone other than the most desperate fame-whore would be stupid enough to work in television for nothing. Even the clowns on TV3's Tallafornia get paid a couple of grand.

Secondly, I doubt many viewers in this media-savvy age underestimate the effort that goes into anchoring a live, two-hour chatshow where anything can go wrong at any moment.

If hosting The Late Late Show every Friday, as well as presenting a two-hour radio show every weekday morning, was a piece of p*ss we'd all be doing it and earning €373,700 a year for our trouble.

Byrne went on: "If Ryan Tubridy was doing the amount of work in America or the UK with the same degree of success, he would be on immeasurably more money and would be a multi-millionaire."

As it happens, I agree. Look at the huge sums paid to Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton, all of whom are backed up by a small army of gag writers.

If Tubridy had the kind of budgets and A-list guests they have at their disposal, who's to say he wouldn't be in the same league? In fact, he may well be if he quits RTE to work for the BBC or ITV.

Gay Byrne might think he was doing Tubridy a favour; he wasn't, and he wasn't doing himself one, either. His condescending comments say more about what he thinks of the audience than they might want to hear.

>IMPERFECT TIMING It's a big, prestigious BBC period drama, based on three big, prestigious novels by Ford Madox Ford, has a script by big, prestigious Tom Stoppard, and features a big, prestigious cast headed by Dominic 'Sherlock' Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall (pictured).

So why is Parade's End, which has received rave reviews, struggling to scrape above 2m viewers? It might have something to do with it being screened on BBC2 on Friday, when many people switch their brains into sleep mode and watch chatshows.

You have to wonder sometimes if those who work in television scheduling bother to watch any television.

>A world away "I wasn't really conscious of people looking at me, I never thought of myself as a star." Modest words indeed from Theresa Lowe, the former Where in the World? host-turned-barrister who was the subject of this week's A Little Bit TV.

Oh, how we used to chuckle back in the 1980s and Nineties at Where in the World?, with its convoluted structure, granite-hard questions and naff prizes (rugs, Tefal pots, Linguaphone courses) that made the notoriously stingy Blankety-Blank look like The $64,000 Question. But listening to Theresa, who was never less than charming, talk with obvious affection of recording three shows a day, writing her own links and working without the safety net of an autocue, and all for relatively low wages, made you conscious of just how fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants RTE could still be in those days.

It's just a pity that all the giant leaps in TV technology since have brought us to are The Republic of Telly and Wagon's Den.

>blank looks And speaking of giant leaps in technology, it looks like next month's planned digital switchover might not go as smoothly as hoped.

Despite a reminder being permanently lodged in the corner of the TV picture for months now and an advertising campaign starring a galaxy of RTE stars, it seems some 200,000 viewers simply don't believe their screens will go blank if they're still using an analogue aerial come October 24.

This could be the first time in history the television turns off the viewer rather than the other way around.