Living On The Box

I was watching someone on TV last night who was truly awful. And this morning I find myself wondering why I was getting so worked up about it.

I don’t stop and watch gardeners and get irate when they can’t tell the difference between weeds and Wisteria. I’ve never become agitated over someone decorating the outside of a house with a mix of colours only a colourblind man with cataracts could love. And I’m sure I haven’t become angry over looking at a road sweeper who misses some litter. Some people are bad at their job. That’s life. So why get annoyed by a useless TV host?

It’s a funny thing being a TV or radio presenter. I know many professional, slick, funny, educated, experienced and unflappable broadcasters who are currently spending their days waiting for the ‘phone to ring, and wondering if they should take up hairdressing instead.

On the other hand, as I saw last night, some hopeless, amateurish, bumbling people make a living out of it, leaving the unemployed scratching their heads and moaning about their lot. So why is it that the most competent don’t always rise to the surface? Well, more so than in any other business, it comes down to just one word. Likeability.

Take Jools Holland for instance.

Forget for a moment that he’s a great musician. Watch his shows on TV and by any cold, calculating, “School of Presenters” standards he is absolutely hopeless. He constantly forgets his guests’ names, looks off camera to his prompt boards and mumbles when he can’t think of the words to finish sentences in the hope we’ll think he said something worthwhile (try him with subtitles and see). He also forgets which direction, left or right, he’s moving in to introduce the next guest, and he asks the exact same questions in every single interview – “What were your influences growing up, What advice would you give to people starting out, Who’s your favourite act in the studio tonight?” 

BUT, and it’s a huge BUT, I wouldn’t miss him for the world. He’s impossible to dislike. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to move in next door. He’s great, great, great. Love him. He may not be slick, but he’s sick (in the modern sense of the word). I have many friends who are infinitely better presenters but can’t get arrested, and I know several musicians who are better at their craft than Jools Holland, yet they’ll never work on TV. But that’s beside the point. He deserves to be there because he’s likeable. Good company. Warm and welcoming.

And so, to borrow one of Jools’ questions, when I’m asked What Advice Would You Give To Someone Starting Out, I always say, “It's better to be likeable than good.”

Life's not fair, but refusal is less likely to occur, and is easier to take, when you're likeable. You can teach someone to be good if they’re intelligent and willing to learn, but you can’t teach someone to be warm and inviting and, unfortunately, the inept TV host I watched last night was neither good nor personable. I expect their career to last another ten minutes.

Likeable Jools Holland on the other hand will last for ever.