Category: Archive

Dublin Report Once in a ‘Million’ opportunity for TV viewers

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Kelly

The traditional Irish answer to a question is another question. And it was not just the people of Kerry who are adept; they are just better at it.

Nothing much has changed over the centuries. It’s still another question. Only this time the question is most likely to be, "You want to phone a friend?"

Old Uncle Gaybo is back on Irish TV with a vengeance. As host of the Irish version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" the man who made the "Late Late Show" famous, is back at the top end of the ratings.

Funny thing is that Gay Byrne is ending his career almost as he started it.

In his younger days, he was a dab hand at the questions in the Archbishop Byrne Hall in Synge Street, where he also went to school. As a young part-time MC, while he also worked as an insurance agent, Gaybo even asked the questions during the popular stage show in the old Theatre Royal.

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The runaway success of his latest venture is no big surprise. Many years ago, in the time of the old steam radio, one of the most popular programs on Radio Eireann, as it was then called, was "Question Time," hosted by the late Joe Linnane.

In the popularity stakes, it was narrowly beaten by the "Living with Lynch" variety show, the "Kennedy’s of Castlerosse," and the incredible "Take the Floor," the only radio show punctuated by the rap-a-tap of the Rory O’Connor School of Irish Dancing, precursors of Butler and Flatley.

Now, quite suddenly, Ireland has become quiz conscious again as the result of the most cleverly designed TV packages ever — one, incidentally, that borrowed a lot from the universally successful board game Trivial Pursuit.

Unlike you more unlucky viewers in the U.S., we mere Irish have more than one version available.

With a push of a button, we can vary our attention between ITV in the UK and RTE here in Ireland.

It is one of the great advantages of being "dominated" by our nearest neighbor.

Not alone can we see Gaybo in the Irish version; we can also see his counterpart, Chris Tarrant, in the often-simpler UK program.

Spoiled for choice, so we are.

Thus, between floods in the midst of what one of the dampest and gloomiest Novembers in memory, the Irish viewing public switches to ITV one week and to RTE the next.

The result is that half of the Irish people seem to spend their time asking question of the other half, questions like, "What do you call a female rabbit?"

No, the answer is not "Busy!"

It was one of the early qualifying questions on the last Irish show. It left a very chastened young man departing the studio with a big, fat zero in prize money.

He fell into the "doe" trap, in every sense of the term, because he believed that only female deer were described as does, courtesy of the ditty in "The Sound of Music."

Just a week earlier on the ITV version, an upper-crust woman, cousin of Camilia Parker Bowles, mistress of Prince Charles no less, walked away with a cool million she clearly did not need.

The winning question and answer?

"Who was the wife of Henry II?"

Pssst — want to phone a friend?

What a question for a cool blonde who can trace her ancestry to William of Orange, the same Billy of the Boyne fame.

Not alone did the twice-divorced Judith Keppel know the answer, she was to the "manor born," so to speak. In fact, she has been connected to the British royal family for no fewer than three generations.

One of her ancestors on the female side, naturally enough, was the mistress of Edward VII.

Just to show that the Royals keep it among the Royals, that particular ancestor, Alice Keppel, was the great-grandmother of the aforementioned Camilia Parker Bowles.

Her beau, the lovelorn Prince Charles, is the great-great-grandson of the same Edward VII.

So, there you are, what goes around in British Royalty certainly comes around.

Naturally she had not the slightest doubt when she chose Elanor of Aquitaine as being the wife of Henry II.

After all, her family and she had known the British Royal family for 312 years, or so.

Not alone that, they are still in its service.

So much for ITV and the British version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire?"

From the point of view of prize money, the Irish version has certainly proved to be much duller.

Within two weeks in the UK, contestants walked away with half a million and a million pounds, respectively.

In Ireland, we are only in the ha’penny place.

So far, the bigger prizes have been few and far between. Nobody has yet suggested that it has anything to do with the fact that our population is smaller.

The carefully planned program, standard format throughout the many countries in which it is broadcast, depends for most of its income on the receipts from telephone calls made by prospective contestants. There are a lot fewer of these in Ireland than in most other countries. Hence, receipts are much less.

Is it purely coincidental that many questions seem to be that much more difficult?

After all, Gaybo, who used to have "One for everyone in the audience" in the good old days of the "Late Late Show," cannot dole out a million a week.

Internationally, the show would be bankrupt in no time.

Thus, when a young girl was going quite well, she was stumped with a question concerning the biggest tillage crop in Ireland.

She could choose from a variety of crops, including barley and wheat. She could also choose grass.

Not too unsurprisingly, she did nothing of the sort. And she lost what she had won.

Duly, another few thousand, if not even the possible million, was saved.

The doe question was not too popular either.

The Irish version of the show has come in for a lot of criticism. So far, Gaybo has dodged the worst of the flak. It will be a shame if he should go down in memory as the great tormentor of modern Ireland.

Whatever about quiz shows, nothing can quite compare with the answer given by an unfortunate contestant on the former RTE downmarket "Quicksilver."

"What was Hitler’s first name?" he was asked.

Quick as a flash, he replied, "Heil!"

He was certainly not in the millionaire category.

Nor the royal, for that matter.

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