Some mornings before heading out to work, I turn on TV3’s Ireland AM. The main reason – I swear – is for the Irish news headlines, not for Mark Cagney’s smug demeanour or Aidan Cooney’s out-of-placeness (and what is it with that stuff on his lips? He looks like a pantomime dame). There’s much wrong with the program – flimsy sets, tired formula and an over-reliance on daily fashion packages that are just glorified ad inserts. The items covered are clearly aimed at women and never stray far from the usual health, beauty, food, gardening set-up with the occasional serious piece. It’s as fluffy as a marshmallow, and not half as tasty or appealing.
Writing in the Sunday Times Culture Mag recently, the misanthropic master (or moany old toad, depending on your viewpoint) Liam Fay wrote about the programme’s Showbiz Correspondent Noel Cunningham, calling him a “perma-tanned middle-aged dandy with a migraine-inducing penchant for combining pinstriped suits with lime-green shirts”, or as Stephen Meyler puts it “a leprechaun who’s escaped from the reserve up in the Mourne Mountains… dressed head-to-toe in violent cerise pink.” Personally, and I may go to hell for this, he always reminds me a bit of Sloth from The Goonies in drag, wearing lots of make-up, loud clothes and the odd cravat.
In his article, Fay says that Cunningham comes across as a “tweedy bumpkin who has wandered into a TV studio and isn’t quite sure what to do”. But hey, not knowing what to do on TV hasn’t stopped half the broadcasters in this country who regularly appear on the tellybox. The “exclusive” nature of Noel’s big news reveals are very dubious. He doles out advice – while directly looking at the camera – to the world’s trouble megastars. According to Fay, Cunningham saying: “’Keep your chin up Britney’, straight to camera, adding a you-go girl wink as an additional morale boost” is both “creepy and hilarious”.
Yesterday morning though, was a new low – and not just because the newsreader referred to the plane that dropped the Hiroshima bomb as “Enola Gray” – but because of what passed for an “item”. Rosanna Davison was a guest, alongside the irritating Fiona Looney (how does that woman keep getting work?). Davison was there not to expand on her desire for world peace, most likely last trotted out at the Miss World Final a few years back, but to talk about the fact that she is now a brunette. Yes, you read that right. A whole 10 coma-inducing minutes of Rosanna talking about her now dark tresses. My leg involuntarily formed itself into a toepoke and I had to restrain myself form putting my foot through the telly. What’s worse, is that a slot on any TV show, even one as inane and lightweight as Ireland AM, is publicity that could have been afforded to highlight a serious issue, or to give some aspiring singer/writer/actor/sportsperson their 15 minutes of fame. Instead Rosie’s hair colour was deemed a worthy hook for a quarter of an hour of miserably dull viewing. The focus on appearance, and the “dark or blonde, being pretty is important” tone, was soul-destroying. No wonder so many girls grow up aspiring to be Barbie dolls, if this kind of vacuousness will get you on TV.