‘That shirt made you look fat.’ (It did and I am) ‘Rubbish tie’ (I thought the tie was fine) ‘Jacket needed pressing’ (It is a linen jacket...linen looks like that even if you press it.) Making my debut on TV turned out to be more an exercise in sartorial critique than any analysis or appreciation of what I actually said. Having for years resisted the siren song of the haunted fishtank, a late-night call from an English-language news channel finally got me in front of the camera — once I had found the studio that is.
Having done quite a bit of radio over the years I had convinced myself that I was not a ‘TV person;’ and that anyway I did not want to up the recognition factor any further by making a fool of myself in front of hundreds of thousands on TV rather than the mere tens of thousands I speak to in print. Courage nailed to the mast I went in search of something I thought would be easy to find — a TV station. My preconceptions took a bit of a knock when I found the studio where the show was to be recorded located above shops in a busy market rather than the tasteful dedicated building surrounded by lawns and with the occasional fountain that my fantasy TV station was located in. Inside, 21st century...outside...Pakistan, late 1950’s.
Having been introduced to my fellow panelists neither of whom I had heard of (nor they me) it was clear from the outset that there was going to be little that we agreed on. A light dusting of makeup powder later we were on the set and the first thing that struck me was just how scruffy it was — and how you never see the scruffiness onscreen. There were odd bits of equipment lying around out of camera shot, the set was chipped on the corners, the whole place would have benefited from the attentions of a cleaner every couple of years and the desk in front of us panelists was dirty, similarly chipped, and dusty.
With minimal briefing the host had us into things with a slightly unnerving swiftness. For a TV virgin like myself (the other two were old hands) it was a bit close to one of those climbing experiences where the hold that you have under one hand starts to slip before the hold you really want to have under the other hand has yet materialised. As anticipated, the three of us found little to agree about and within a few minutes I uttered the immortal ‘I’m sorry I have to disagree with you’ phrase and I was off and running. Just like radio really except that they out there, on the other side of the screen, can see your every twitch and mannerism.
Time passed quickly before the camera and it was all over almost before I knew it. A friendly chat with the host post-show and back home to see myself as others see me for perhaps the first time in my life. The show was half over by the time I was sitting with family members, and past what I considered my ‘best bits’. Oh dear, did I ever look a mess! Several mental notes were made as to mistakes never to be made again (yes Dear Reader, there is going to be an ‘again’) and the family changed channels as quickly as decency would allow to catch up on episode 5,368 of ‘My mother-in-law hates me’. So what was it all about? Sorry, but for the life of me I can’t remember. So much for immortality.