The Blog

What's A Gary Worth?

Gary Lineker thinks that criticism of his £2million salary at the BBC is the downside to working there and that he could get more elsewhere. Yes, THAT Gary Lineker, the one that sits opposite the Scottish one on a show that would not miss him if he were gone.

Gary Lineker thinks that criticism of his £2million salary at the BBC is the downside to working there and that he could get more elsewhere. Yes, THAT Gary Lineker, the one that sits opposite the Scottish one on a show that would not miss him if he were gone.

That his presence would go unmissed will presumably come as something of a surprise to Gary, as to be a person as celebrated within the small world of the BBC as he is, he must be for ever surrounded by a quivering cloud of sycophants and helpers and assistants and interns that are constantly telling him how good he is, how vital and perceptive are his pronouncements on the game and how indispensable are his talents. Living under such a clamorous waterfall of acclamation, it must be hard for him to determine his real worth.

If we were to gauge the value of Gary based on the amount of people that would not watch Match of the Day if he were not on it, it would be a calculation that even I would be able to do in my head. The value would be zero, as there can't be a single person in the country that would decide not to watch the footie because a greying, doughy faced, Toby Jug of a man were not introducing the action.

He seems to have had his sense spirited away by the showbiz fairy. He appears to be believing what the people around him are telling him. He even refers to himself as being "at the top in entertainment". That is the single most entertaining thing he has ever said.

On that programme, it looks like he has been chosen for much the same reason that most people are selected for the job of television presenter: blandness. It is the absence of an interesting personality that will get you onto the box. There's loads of them and the blank face they present allows them to be switched between formats because there is nothing there for the public to hang their prejudices and expectations on. They are a beige army of banality whose saleability is their vapidity. They are selected not on their ability to make the public tune in, but on their lack of anything that might make them tune out. They are the telly equivalent of magnolia paint.

The problem is that these people do not know this. They believe that they have been selected for how fascinating, funny and delightful they are. In their minds they are entertainers. In the directors' minds they are puppets to be dangled in front of a camera and then disposed of for another younger or blonder model when they get too old, greedy or demanding.

The reason that some of these presenters stay for an extended period in the spotlight is mostly down to fear in the middle management offices. This is why we see tired old formats repeated endlessly on the box. If a channel has a success with a game show involving blowing up red balloons, then a competing channel will have its own version featuring green balloons on the air before the smile has died from the original host's lips. This will then be followed by celebrity versions of balloon blowing while dancing on diving boards and so on until the format collapses under the weight of its canned laughter and the process starts again.

Middle management's fear of making a mistake is the main cause of so much dire twaddle on TV. No-one wants to be the executive that said "Yes" to an idea to which the public subsequently said "No". It is also the reason that we see the same old faces time and again fronting show after show. The reasoning is that if an executive hires Star X to front a show and it fails, then it is the fault of Star X. If he hires an unknown to do the same show and it fails, then it is the fault of the executive.

It is fear of making a bad decision that has resulted in there usually being nothing to watch and 150 channels on which to watch it.

Gary Lineker is at the epicentre of this phenomenon. He must have been hired originally because of his inoffensiveness. As a player he was never red carded, was not known for his rowdy behaviour, seemed perfectly normal, bordering on dull, and had not been accused of saying anything interesting on any subject whatsoever. Perfect.

That he has stayed so long and earned so much must be due to the management being terrified that if they replaced him, the audience would leave the show too. If that is what they think, then it is time for the management to leave the show, the building and the business.

There can not be a single person who watches Match of the Day who would decide not to do so if they heard that Gary would not be presenting it, apart from, perhaps, Gary himself. That means that he is not a draw, the show itself is the draw.

It is the exact opposite for Jeremy Clarkson. If Jezza were to leave Top Gear, its ratings would suffer a catastrophic fall. Indeed, were he to leave to spend more time with his money, that would be the end of Top Gear. The reason for this is simple: he is funny - HE is the draw. He also writes all his own stuff. Gary Lineker once protested that he too writes his own links. I don't know how he does it. Who can forget his classic... um... well, what about when he, I can't recall a single thing he has ever uttered.

He must be the single luckiest man in show-business. When feted stars of the BBC have listened to their agents or their friends and left to take their talents elsewhere, they have almost all come a cropper because the ability that they are constantly told they posses while working at the Beeb does not seem to exist in real life. It's called flattery. It is what showbiz is built on. That, and a sea of PR BS.

If I were Gary Lineker, I think I would say as little as possible about the £2million a year that I was gifted of taxpayers' money to do what must be the easiest job on telly. Honestly, there's nothing to it. That Irishman they had on doing the Sunday show was better. At least he was amusing and seemed mentally agile.

Gary says that he has a better looking body than he has ever had. He said " in terms of aesthetics, I probably look better than when I was actually playing". He did not get those muscles by lifting books. If I was Gary Lineker, I think I would spend less time admiring myself in the mirror and use most of my day to contemplate how unbelievably lucky I am to have translated an ability to be not very interesting into a multi-million pound fortune.

I might also wonder if I was still presenting Match of the Day not because I am an ex-fooballer whose playing days are not even a memory for much of the audience, but more because I am the bloke off the crisp adverts.