THE hard times are hitting us all, which perhaps explains the current trend to nab every money-making opportunity that presents itself, even among our already well-paid TV presenters.
Sometimes, a well-placed celebrity can do wonders for a brand, like Lucy Kennedy and Bord Gais. Even Mr Omni-endorsement, Craig Doyle, gives the feeling that he knows the score -- turn up, smile at the camera, don't overdo the earnestness, because we all know it's just a lucrative gig for you.
Which is what bugs me about George Hook's campaign for Sky TV. The effort that he puts into convincing us he means it... The overpowering emotion is his description of how helpful everyone at Sky is... The fact that George, deep down, thinks we feel his love for Sky, when we know he's just reading a script.
I dread the few seconds that George Hook comes into my home each night. Which is why an announcement caught my eye yesterday.
"Cruise with the Legendary George Hook" said American Holidays, offering holiday makers the chance to share a week-long cruise with the broadcaster. "Listen to George give seminars on 'How to beat the recession' and 'Irish Rugby to the World Cup 2011' as well as enjoying his usual craic and repartee whilst cruising around the Mediterranean."
From George's point of view, there are attractions. On top of his fee, I'm guessing that George is getting VIP treatment on the cruise for free. Plus he'll have the opportunity to check up on Sky's legendary customer service in Florence and Nice. Not forgetting the all-day buffet, and the fee. But scratch a little deeper, and it's hard to know what's in the deal for either side.
This is a cruise liner, so George can't just escape from the people who've paid specifically to rub waistlines with him. Guests will almost certainly feel that they're entitled to approach him at any time to gain a piercing insight, so to place yourself at the mercy of the public on what is supposed to be your time off -- well, you must want the fee pretty badly.
From the punters' point of view, the offers seems even less attractive. I was on a cruise earlier this year, and enjoyed it thoroughly. The sense of abandon from your daily troubles; the light, fluffy on-board entertainment on offer before having a dry sherry and hitting the hay at 9pm.
But it's hard to think of a less attractive holiday than a week-long cruise with George, watching him spray the auditorium with platitudes about Ireland's mobile back line, and how to combat the recession. Seriously, can you think of someone less well-qualified on the planet than old porpoise-face to lecture us about 'tightening our belts'?
I guess this offer will be to some people's tastes, who will maybe relish one particular aspect of the package -- the "guaranteed opportunity to dine with George".
My tip for people availing of a chow down with the great man? Get there early before the food's all gone...
SOME good news for Brian Cowen at last, as Newsweek magazine has put him in its Top 10 World Leaders list.
While acknowledging the state that Ireland finds itself in, the mag praises Cowen for "pushing through austerity packages, raising taxes, and slashing public salaries by more than 10pc".
Curiously enough, it makes no mention of Cowen's part in dumping us in it, or of raising the public salaries to such an absurd level, in the first place.
"There's some hope that his Government's unpopular measures will be rewarded... surveys suggest that Irish consumer confidence is on the rise again," continues the article, with a straight face.
But before our leader gets too proud of his inclusion, he might reflect on which two world leaders he finds himself sandwiched between in the list -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who continues to preside over a country whose human rights record would have been frowned upon by Nazi Germany, and Saudi Arabian leader King Adullah, whose human rights record... Well, you get the idea.
If you believe you should judge a man by the company he keeps, then Brian might want to play down this little tribute.
AS THE saga of Dublin's first directly elected Lord Major drags on, John Gormley defiantly claims that it will take place this year, though it's patently obvious that there isn't a hope of that happening.
As it stands, this isn't such a bad thing, as the list of potential candidates is hardly mouth-watering.
Self-loving Green TD Paul Gogarty is inevitably in the mix, as is former mayor Royston Brady, who last weekend declared that he'd love another crack of the whip -- he was last heard of managing a golf course, so I'm quite sure he would.
What the city needs is someone with brains, dynamism and an ability to communicate with a hugely diverse population. And bizarrely enough, considering the abuse that's been heaped on it, courtesy of a certain Ivor Callely, the best candidate lies within the Senate.
Feargal Quinn is a man of immense integrity who retains a work ethic that would shame people half his age and, as his RTE series, Retail Therapy, shows, he'll roll up his sleeves to get things done.
Sure, he may not possess a fashionable Five Lamps patois or be a regular contributor to Adrian Kennedy's Phone Show, but he's lived here all his life and has achieved what he has by being able to communicate with people -- in his case the average Dublin shopper.
If John Gormley could just package the new Lord Mayor's position to have powers that would make it attractive to someone of the calibre of Feargal Quinn, then we might actually have something.