George is the bee in our barbecue
The George Lee Show (RTE1)
I know what you're thinking. There is no such programme as The George Lee Show. If there was, we would have heard about it.
There would have been a gatefold cover on the RTE Guide, with George dressed in a white tuxedo, smiling and holding up a glass of champagne.
You're right, of course. There is no such programme as The George Lee Show; it's just that it feels like there is.
George's nightly visitations on the Six-One News are as much a staple of the recession as the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is of Christmas, only without the uplifting ending. You won't catch RTE's Economics Editor leaning out his window of a snowy Christmas morning and urging a tattered urchin to go and fetch the biggest goose in the butcher's shop.
There are plenty of tattered urchins about, but no sign of a goose. Christmas has been cancelled for the foreseeable future and George is the one charged with breaking the bad news.
Every crisis period in history finds a unique broadcasting voice. BBC Radio had Alistair Cook during the Second World War. American television had Ed Murrow during the McCarthy witch-hunts.
And right now, RTE has George Lee. George is a star born out of a recession. He's the perfect voice for our age: doomy and gloomy and altogether as welcome as a bee in a beer can at a barbecue.
Except there won't be any beer or any barbecues, either. Summer has been cancelled too.
Listening to George's bleak proclamation from the steps of the Central Bank last evening was like flicking through a dictionary of woes.
It's time, he said, for "straight talking", for biting the bullet" and whatever other cliche you can lay your hands on.
As filtered through the microphone of misery that is George, the Central Bank report sounded more terrifying than a Stephen King novel: "exceptionally bad for Ireland ... extreme difficulties ... serious downturn for 2009... difficult decisions".
George's mournful voice, which sounds like a synthesiser suffering from clinical depression, is enough to convince you that it's all over. We're doomed. We're screwed. We're up You-Know-What Creek -- and never mind the paddle, we don't even have a bleeding boat!
Remember when you told the builder that you wanted him to convert the garage of your brand new house into a snooker room? Well, ring the man back -- he's doing jobs for 25pc less than he charged this time last year -- and tell him you want the snooker room converted into a lead-lined nuclear bunker. It may not protect you from economic fallout, but at least it will blot out the sound of George Lee flattening you and your children's futures like Jack Bauer from 24 pummelling his way through a row of terrorists.
Even the avuncular Bryan Dobson seems to have been infected by the seeping awfulness of it all. He announced that RTE's Political Editor, David Davin-Power, was outside Government Buildings, his singularly unflappable hair seemingly the only thing untouched by the recession.
"And George Lee is here in the studio," added Dobbo, "with a reminder -- if we need one -- of the enormity of the challenge the economy faces."
We don't need a reminder but as long as George Lee is on the case, the reminders are going to keep coming. "This is George Lee, RTE, at the Seventh Circle of Hell."
None today, I'm afraid. We can't afford them.