Beyond the neon runes


Dressed for success

I’ve never been on telly. But if I was, you could guarantee that I’d make sure I looked my very best.

I’d almost certainly buy a new shirt. Probably a pair of nice trousers too, chinos perhaps. The decision whether to get some new shoes would depend entirely on the programme I was due to appear on – wouldn’t be much point in forking out for brogues unless I was sure they were going to appear on screen. Oh, and I’d get a haircut too.

And you’d do the same. Whether you were set to play a starring role on Winning Streak or just be a member of the audience on the Late Late, you’d pull out all the stops, and ensure that those sitting at home, your neighbours, your work colleagues, would have to accept that you scrub up well when you put your mind to it.

But imagine being on television all the time. Imagine having every inch of your person scrutinised on a daily basis, every blemish, every unsightly lump commented upon and discussed by a public who expect you to look absolutely fabulous every time you appear on their screens. And unlike the online sphere, where images can be pre-approved, altered and filtered, this is live and in real-time, with nowhere to hide.

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I wouldn’t be able to handle it; would most likely spend my evenings scrolling through all the cruel comments online, sinking deeper into self-loathing every time someone mentioned how my ears kinda stick out or my teeth are a little wonky.

So, those who choose to be on television, who opt to make a career out of appearing in front of the camera, have my utmost respect. And that they too want to look their best is only natural.

However, there is a limit to how fabulous one need look, especially if your job involves something like, oh I don’t know, reading the news or appearing in a soap opera that practically no-one watches. The people doing those jobs needn’t be stunning, they needn’t be catwalk ready, kitted out in the latest, most expensive, fashions, with the hair and make-up to match.

However, if they work at RTÉ, they probably are.

Last year our national broadcaster spent €438, 248 on the hair, make-up, and clothes of its biggest stars.

Surprisingly, this is not how much it costs to make Eamon Dunphy look presentable on a Champions League night. Instead, the costs are spread out over RTÉ’s various current affairs programmes and Fair City. Yes, that’s right, Fair City is still going. And not only is it still going, its stars are swanning round the streets of Dublin in clothes that cost €72,203.

Now in the interests of fairness, I have to admit that it’s a decade or more since I’ve seen the programme, but unless it’s become a sort of Irish Falcon Crest, complete with diamond necklaces and pearl earrings, then this figure seems excessive. If it wishes to be in any way true-to-life, then surely the entire cast should be clad in sportswear and knock-off jewellery.

But while no expense has been spared in ensuring the residents of Carrigstown are on trend clothes-wise, a few corners have been cut elsewhere.

Just €6,588 was spent on their hair and make-up last year, which, one can only assume, is in keeping with the show’s gritty realism, its ‘warts-and-all’ vibe.

There were very few warts present during RTÉ’s news broadcasts in 2017 however, with €18,300 worth of make-up being used to cover up any unpleasant pimples or baggy eyes. That figure accounts for all three major bulletins, the One O’ Clock News, Six One, and the Nine O’ Clock News, so we have no way of knowing where the bulk of the money went.

If pushed though, I’d wager that they were trowelling it on to Bryan Dobson; no-one can look that good without some sort of assistance.

A further €44,970 was spent on the news team’s wardrobe, easily enough to ensure no-one had to go work in the same outfit they’d worn the day before.

Tubridy though, he’s only on once a week, and for six months of the year; a couple of suits, a new tie once in a while, and he’d fine.

Yet somehow it cost €28,469 to dress Ryan during his appearances on the Late Late last year, a gargantuan figure for such a slight man.

But wait, there’s an explanation at hand.

That number includes the more than 200 performers who appeared on The Toy Show, the Billy Barry kids and all those other high-kicking starlets. In all likelihood, Ryan dressed himself.

Which is exactly what Claire Byrne did.

Arguably the most talented presenter within RTÉ’s ranks, Ms Byrne incurred no wardrobe costs whatsoever during 2017, suggesting that, unlike many of her colleagues, she is perfectly capable of buying her own clothes. In addition, she incurred costs of just €228 on hair and make-up while hosting her eponymous current-affairs programme.

And remarkably, at no point were any of us moved to say, “Jaysus, Claire’s looking a bit rough tonight.”

It’s almost as if she realises that the emphasis should be on the quality of the broadcast, and that a fancy new frock isn’t going to impress viewers hoping to see another unwitting politician put to the pin of their collar.

These figures serve only to highlight the level of complacency within our national broadcaster, an organisation which, despite claims to the contrary, continues to snub its nose at those who fund it. An organisation which promises to hunt down those who aren’t paying their license fee and then sends Ger Canning, a GAA man, out to Russia to commentate on World Cup games. An organisation which has a hit drama show about once every ten years and considers Amy Huberman to be a marketable asset. And an organisation which took the jewel in its crown, the longest running chat show in the world, and turned it into a light entertainment show, a diluted, Americanised version of what was once an unmissable staple of Irish life.

It’s accepted that newsreaders and presenters need to be pimped and preened before going under the lights, and that soap opera characters require a varied set of clothes for all occasions. But allowing Sharon, Caitriona, Bryan, and the rest to dress themselves on the company’s dollar is unnecessary. They are well-paid to do the work they do and should be able to turn up for duty in their own clothes.

In response to these figures, RTÉ said that, “with regards to hairdressing and make-up, the overall amount for 2017 includes the costs for make-up products, make-up tools, consumables and hairdressing.”

This sounds like an attempt to clarify the issue, but instead brings to mind a dressing-room full of potions and powders, of pomade and product, of semi-nude celebs walking around in a haze of fragrance while frantic lackies desperately try to zip them up before show time.

More ‘backstage at the Palladium’ than the hub of a national broadcasting service.


Bird infestation is nothing to crow about

Have you seen that clip of the talking crow, the one where it asks, in a broad Yorkshire accent, if “you’re alright love”?

Hilarious isn’t it? Because we don’t think of crows as being a sociable bird, of contributing anything to society at all. In many ways they are the schoolyard bully of the avian world; an unruly mob dressed all in black, stealing from the needy, beating up any who dare to cross them.

But this is just how evolution works, and if those pretty little blue tits can’t fend for themselves, if the crows run them all out of town, then so be it. When they start messing with us humans though, that’s when we have a problem.

The seagulls are already pushing their luck, robbing our chips, scaring our children, and now the crows are starting to take liberties too.

Speaking at a meeting of the Cappamore-Kilmallock district, Fianna Fáil Councillor, Eddie Ryan described the proliferation of crows in the area as an “epidemic” and accused the brazen birds of bossing around his calves, stealing their food, and damaging his fodder.

Not only that, they’ve also taken to joining in with the dawn chorus, waking up sleepy parishioners with their inharmonious cawing at four in the morning.

Ordinarily in a situation like this the introduction of a few predatory birds; owls, hawks, and the like; would put manners on these pests.

But have you seen how big crows are nowadays? It would take a brave owl to tackle those Goliaths.

No, something else is required here. I propose we initiate a civil war of sorts. If we all gather on Cllr Ryan’s farm with bags of chips in our hands, it’ll only be a matter of time before the seagulls arrive. And when they do, when they start flexing their muscles, acting all tough, there’ll surely be hell to pay.