Many of us have ventured across the water to earn our crust. Or as Christy Moore sings:
…..you can’t live on love, on love aloneMissing You, Christy Moore
So you sail cross the ocean, away cross the foam
And Gerry certainly did his stint away cross the foam.
You might be aware of the recent RTÉ debacle that saw lynchpin broadcaster, Ryan Tubridy, stripped of his daily 9 AM slot on prime time radio. And left without a job to go to, based on somewhat nefarious reporting around his earnings. RTÉ, rightly or wrongly, shut him out in the cold. And there is very divided opinion who holds the higher moral ground in this saga.
Doing the Rounds
Ryan has been dropping in on some fellow broadcasters, Chris Evans and Piers Morgan in London. Rumour has it that he’s primed for a juicy deal, and even a move over there. There were reports of BBC offers for Ryan in 2010, so there is certainly form.
Finn McRedmond from Irish Times feels that a move across the pond to Britain might well be a fortuitous one for Ryan:
RTÉ has lost an asset, but a good career likely awaits in Britain. That he might succeed in London media is not erroneous suspicion but a likelihood.Finn McRedmond, The Irish Times
It’s not like others haven’t gone before him. Our darling Terry Wogan, the charming Graham Norton, Ryan’s former classmate, Craig Doyle, Angela Scanlon, Laura Whitmore. The list goes on.
The most hated man in Britain
Gerry, however, did not experience similar success when he took up a BBC offer in 1994 to present Anderson Country on Radio 4. It was a daily hour-long afternoon magazine programme. And on the face of it, one would be forgiven for thinking it had success written all over it.
In the event, it proved to be a hurtful and frightening experience. His dry wit and irreverent humour, coloured by his life experiences and observations were not to the taste of his home counties audience. The vitriol was naked and unashamed.
He talked about his experiences in the Belfast Telegraph in 2008:
“I was called the most hated man in Britain. I felt like phoning the Yorkshire Ripper and saying, ‘You’re all right, kid’.”
He knew “almost right away” that the show wasn’t going to succeed but he finished his year’s contract.
And while he says he never had a problem with Radio Four bosses — he went to present documentaries for the station — he said doing the show each day was a struggle.
“It was like going up the gallows,” he admitted.
“A lot of people liked it, but the opinion formers and the people who write the ‘Angry from Eastbourne’, the retired colonels and the Margaret Thatcher people — the retired pink-haired ladies — they hated my guts.
“The type of people who were listening — the aggressively intellectual — they regarded me as the first barbarian over the wall.
“They hated me. They hated me. They hated my guts.
“It took the wind out of my sails in a big way.
“I was lucky I was offered my job back in Radio Ulster — I was finished, I was washed up.”Gerry talking to Gail Edgar, Belfast Telegraph, 2008
He would later admit that the format was a mistake for him – he neither liked a script written for him nor reading from a script on the radio. His style was simply too different to what Radio 4 listeners had learned to expect, so, after just a year, Gerry returned to Derry to recover, regroup, and pick up his career where he had left off.
Two whiskies, love
So what would happen if Gerry was still around to talk to Ryan Tubridy today? Well first of all, he would drag him into a pub – let’s say a lovely, dark snug in McDaids off Grafton St in Dublin…
Two whiskeys would be ordered and the conversation would start…
Listen Ryan, do you remember when I first met you. I think it was the first year you did The Rose of Tralee – jesus, that tent! Remember, I was doing that wee documentary thing on The Rose of Tralee. The live audience was huge and ready for craic – it was electric.
My advice now is the same as it was then – all you have to worry about is the punters, the format and always be yourself – simple. You had the punters all delighted to be there, the Tralee format is great for you and they all know you, so just be yourself.
Another two whiskeys love, please!
“Now, how does that help you here? This isn’t complicated. England is a big market – find your tribe. The thing about radio and tv is the numbers never lie, if your listener or viewer numbers are high, you can say what you want. They get you when the numbers drop.
What format will work for you? There’s loads to choose from, don’t accept the first thing you are offered – there’s plenty of time.
The last thing – don’t pretend to be anyone else. There’s only one Terry Wogan. If you pretend to be someone else, they’ll sniff you out. Just be yourself and be damned with it!”
Because as successful as all of these broadcasters are and have been, many, as McRedmond points out (with the exception of Terry Wogan): “are typified by their clean, mid-Atlantic style. Perhaps some even supplicate their Irishness to appeal to a broad church of British viewers. Accent aside, Norton would hardly seem out of place on the American late-night talk show circuit.”
Meanwhile on the Emerald Isle
So Tubs will likely take up a gig across the water and find his feet, and we hope he finds the audience he seeks there.
Meanwhile back on this isle, Paddy Kielty takes the reins of the Late Late Show on Friday 15th September. He is already funny, irreverend and doing a 180 on the The Late, Late Show format, starting with Gabriel the owl.
It seems that Gerry might be sitting on his shoulder, egging him on!