Thursday 14 December 2017

Ambitious, smart and a natural chat show charmer

"It didn't come as a surprise," Ryan Tubridy told a press conference after his appointment as new host of The Late Late Show, "it came as a shock."

Maybe being given the job was a genuine shock to the father-of-two who in recent weeks appeared, publicly at least, to have removed himself from the running for what is still the biggest job in Irish TV.

For the rest of us, however -- the viewing public who aren't privy to the complex manoeuvrings which are a daily part of life inside RTE -- the only truly shocking aspect of the appointment is that the broadcaster took so long to make what seemed a glaringly obvious choice.

Giving Ryan Tubridy the job is absolutely the right thing to do. He's an excellent broadcaster: smart, capable, adaptable and comfortable in front of the camera. In other words, a natural born chat show host.

Despite RTE's persistent (and usually disastrous) tendency over the years to throw talk shows the way of any half-baked 'personality' capable of looking into the camera and reading from an autocue without falling over, there aren't that many natural born hosts rattling around the Montrose canteen.

Although Tubridy has been playing it cool in recent weeks, there's no doubt whatsoever that he's fiercely ambitious. And there's nothing whatsoever wrong with that when it's allied to genuine ability.

Tubridy is the only one among the crop of broadcasters on the RTE payroll who has proved, beyond any doubt, that he has the chops to convincingly front his own weekly chat show. After all, he's been doing it for five years solid on Tubridy Tonight.

Tubridy Tonight, which pulls in an audience of 450,000, hasn't always been plain sailing. Tubridy has frequently found himself suffering from the Saturday Night Syndrome, whereby all the best available guests have already been hoovered up by The Late Late Show.

It's a little early to predict what The Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy will be like, but the host himself has already hinted that it will be more entertainment-driven and less concerned with the super-heavy social and political topics that suited Pat Kenny's strengths. This too is a good thing.

He has a keen grasp of pop culture, which is something Kenny sorely lacked. Tubridy said yesterday he would be reluctant to engage in "big, long-winded current affairs debates", smartly adding that this territory would be more than well catered for by Kenny's upcoming Monday night show.

"I'd love to bring a bit more dialogue back to the television," he said. "A little more Parky, a little less Ross."

Mindful of the fact that certain elements of the audience regard the Late Late as a 'monument', Tubridy added: "Don't worry, we are not out to frighten you. We do this kind of thing on a daily basis on radio, so give us a chance."

Inevitably, some people are frightened. A listener emailed Today FM's The Last Word yesterday to say that Tubridy was the wrong choice because "the over-50s don't like him". Frankly, this too is a good thing.

If The Late Late Show needs anything, it's not more viewers over 50 but more under 35 (and I'm saying that as someone of 46). Tubridy will provide that. For the first time in a very long time, The Late Late Show might be about to become genuinely relevant again.

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