I bet you didn’t know I had a career in television.
I did indeed.
I fact, it had Gay Byrne quaking in his boots…with laughter.
Because almost every time a camera was pointed at me, I made a complete and utter eejit of myself.
THE TALENT SHOW EXPERIENCE
Back in the 80s, I was invited to sit on the judging panel for an RTE show called Screen Test.
I can’t remember how often I did it.
But I do remember one episode in particular.
I was encouraged a little bit (not by Mike) to be the nasty one. Lonnie Donegan had made a name for himself, and the New Faces talent show, on ITV by being forthright and even cruel to the contestants.
We watched the acts and were to give each on a mark from ten. We had cards in front of us with the numbers on them.
A family band appeared, fronted by a girl of about 11 with her uncles playing the instruments.
They weren’t that good.
So I gave them one, commenting that she should be at home in bed. I should have known better.
They didn’t get any good marks.
But as I was walking down a stairs in RTE on my way out, her uncles were walking up.
One of them stopped me, he put his face close to mine and spat the words:
“She’s only a child ya b****cks.”
And do you know what?
He was right.
THE TALENT SHOW EXPERIENCE II
Well not a talent show so much as Eurosong.
I was asked to sit on the (ahem) expert jury for Ireland’s National Song Contest in 1987. It was held in the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin.
Most of the songs were forgettable. But Johnny Logan was back for another bite at the cherry.
He sang Hold Me Now and I was proud to hold up my card and give him 10.
He won. And he won Eurovision.
See? It’s not all bad.
Then again, maybe that wasn’t a disaster because I didn’t have to open my mouth much.
MORE TELEVISION DISASTER
Aonghus McAnally used to host an RTE game show called The Lyrics Board.
The premise was simple. Each team had a piano, a team captain who was joined by two celebrities or singers (!), at either side. A team would choose a number from one to five, from “the board”, revealing a word. The team would then have to sing a song with that related word to remain in charge of ‘the board’.
So far so good.
Sadly, I think the song we got was Agadoo. Not a single clue did I have. We had to sing along, and I was caught on camera, trying to mime. Badly. Like John Redwood when he tried to mime the Welsh national anthem ( https://youtu.be/WFP5MjUuzsg )
My lips were not matching the words which were being sung by my teammates.
So bad was it, that some people involved allegedly wanted the episode canned.
Sadly, it was aired.
I didn’t watch.
MORE TELEVISION DISASTER
Again in the 80s RTE had a line dancing competition.
Brian Carthy was a judge.
And so was I. I have no idea why.
Brian had some idea what he was talking about.
I knew then as much as I know now about line dancing.
AND EVEN MORE TELEVISION DISASTER
Derek Davis called. He asked me if I’d like to be in the small audience for his show, Davis at Large. They were going to be discussing sport and physical fitness and what different things people were doing.
I was up for it. I knew I could boast that I was back playing a little bit of rugby.
Being the big eejit I am, I had a feed of drink the night before.
The studio they used, if I remember correctly, was in what was then the Catholic Communications Centre at the top of Booterstown Avenue.
Small. And hot.
And as the lights beamed down on me, I began to sweat. And stupidly wearing a light blue shirt, it began to show.
We went to a break – it was pre-recorded but they still took breaks where the ads would be inserted when it was broadcast.
I caught Derek’s eye and shook my head to indicate I didn’t want him to come to me. I pointed at my sweaty shirt. He seemed to agree and nodded.
We came out of the break and as soon as we did, Derek addressed me, and as the camera swung around to catch me in full sweat, drips on my forehead, dark blue stains on my shirt, Derek said: “So, Paddy Murray of the Evening Herald, what are you doing to keep fit apart from sweating profusely?”
Can’t really blame him.
AND THERE’S ANOTHER ONE
IN the 80s (yes I was busy) Dermot Morgan made a pilot show for RTE. It was called Newshounds – a kind of Have I Got News For You for Ireland…
And he asked me to take part in the pilot show which was being filmed in Ardmore Studios.
The day of recording, I woke up with a smothering cold. I could barely speak. I could hardly think. It wasn’t just my nose full of snot, it was my brain.
But out I went.
I explained to Dermot that I was stuffed and not feeling great.
“You’ll be fine,” he said.
I wasn’t. I barely said a word. I sniffed throughout as inaudibly as possible. I stifled coughs for an hour. I was afraid to speak in case I coughed. So I said barely anything.
RTE didn’t buy the series.
And I take some of the blame!
SUCCESS AT LAST!
I recently appeared on Prime Time talking about Covid-19 and the worry if presents for people like me with COPD and other respiratory illnesses.
The crew came to my house to do the interview. It went ok I suppose.
But I think that has a lot more to do with Miriam O’Callaghan putting me at my ease than it has with what I said or how I said it.
I get the feeling that Miriam could make a complete eejit look intelligent.
What am I talking about “I get the feeling that Miriam could make a complete eejit look intelligent?”
That’s what she did!
Is it too late, do you think, to embark on a career in television?