Their expressions flit skilfully across the whole gamut of emotions from goggle-eyed fascination to disapproval to outrage to wry amusement. It’s all totally fake, of course (as a rule, a TV presenter’s only concern is ‘How Do I Look?’ Or maybe ‘Is My Hair OK’?) Each expression has been carefully rehearsed over the previous few hours.
Doing nothing while millions of people are watching you is not easy, and they can’t rely on spontaneity, because they haven’t got any.
I know this because a few years ago I co-presented a health series on regional TV. For some strange reason I wasn’t picked up by CNN to go global and be launched into the broadcasting heights, so all those glamorous and much-coveted travel programmes have sadly missed out on my magnetic and unforgettable screen persona.
I think the main problem was my posture when my co-presenter was reading her autocue; my body language could best be interpreted as ‘this is boring man, get me out of here, and viewers, you’d be better off switching over to The Simpsons’. I didn’t go so far as to actually yawn or stick my fingers down my throat (though many times I felt like doing it) but the message was unmistakable.
After years of general practice, trying to look interested was simply a bridge too far for me.
A media slut I might be, but no matter how much cash is on offer, it’s hard to change the habits hard learned over a lifetime of listening to reams and reams of inane and mind-numbing trivia.
The chemistry with my co-presenter was also severely wanting. At the end of each programme, when the music played and credits rolled, the viewer might presume we were chatting amiably.
In fact I was saying things like, ‘Did you enjoy being a weather-girl?’ or ‘You don’t understand this stuff and you never will’, or ‘Shouldn’t you be presenting a cookery programme somewhere?’ or ‘Sleep with many execs to land this job, did you?’
She would retort with compliments like ‘Did you know the sweat on your baldy head is glistening in the spotlights?’ or ‘You look even fatter on TV, you know’.
At the end of the series, she bade me an affectionate farewell: ‘Get lost, loser,’ she said, so when I saw her again last week I was pleased to see she was doing well and getting ahead.
‘A Big Mac with extra large fries,’ I said.
Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com