herald

Sunday 18 November 2018

He will have disasters and will face scathing criticism but why I think Tubridy will still cut it on Late Late

An awful thought struck me, as Ryan Tubridy made the most delighted television arrival in history last Friday. I realised I'd been on the Late, Late Show before the new host was born.

That would rattle your fillings, wouldn't it? Never mind that I was only 13 at the time. It still happened before that long streak of ecstasy was a long streak of baby.

For me -- and, give him his due -- for Tubridy, nothing compares to Uncle Gabriel.

But as he did the "Cool down, enough, already, with the applause" gesture, the new presenter gracefully paid tribute to Gay and Pat, confident, after years of hosting another chat show, that he could handle it. And he did.

Not everything was perfect. The updated signature tune sounded as if someone who had heard the original once was trying to remember it through a hangover.

But Ryan worked that audience with confidence. Even during the commercial breaks.

One member of the audience was celebrating her 50th birthday that night.

Like the rest of them, she assumed that when the ad break came, he would shut down, concentrate on his notes, and get ready for the next guest.

Instead, he called out her name, asked her to identify herself and bounded up to her, presenting her with a birthday present and making a little speech about how important a birthday the 50th was. It made her night. It made her year. And it made the audience love him all the more.

Nobody could figure how he knew it was her birthday.

Everybody liked him for taking the time to make it special for her.

Ryan Tubridy's uncomplicated pleasure in hosting the Late, Late Show was infectious.

His ownership of the gig allowed him to cut Brian Cowen short whenever the Taoiseach went into generalities and be witty about Bertie Ahern's foresight. The audience rose to him. They wanted him to ask the alcohol question, and they didn't notice or disapprove when, having asked it, he didn't pursue it, retreating into an observation about the cheek of having asked it in the first place.

The audience at home, particularly the watchers paid to criticise the show, has a cooler approach to any chat show.

They registered his strengths: short questions followed by attentive silence.

They also registered the occasional weakness, like the comment that Joan Collins travelling in James Dean's car a week before the latter stuffed it into a tree was "tragic".

Because getting to host the Late Late is, for Ryan, roughly the equivalent of being assumed into heaven. He'll work hard at managing both the audience in the studio and the audience at home. He will want to put clear blue water between his old show and this one.

His reverence for Gay Byrne may encourage him to update elements of the old show, like growing his own panellists.

It may also lead him to re-visit relevant specials. A new version of the "black and white" programme populated by priests, nuns and bishops, for example, might be extremely relevant, in the new context of condemnation, bankruptcy and impending extinction of congregations.

He's in a great position to take those risks, having inherited a solid audience from Pat Kenny which is swelled by the recession: fewer people have the money to socialise on a Friday night.

The audience is bigger. But it's also radically changed. It's angry and puzzled at how its world has been turned upside down.

Pat Kenny operated in the "We're all right, Jack" years when divorce, gay rights and other major social issues had been sorted and the quick emotionalism of a new victim was what was needed from the Late, Late.

Tubridy, like Gay, operates in an Ireland where answers have unravelled and we're ready to explore ideas, rather than listen to visiting celebs plugging their latest movie or book.

He'll have disasters. Of course.

He'll face constant scathing criticism. Of course.

But if he retains the sunny outward focus of the guy who, on Friday, made one woman feel special, off-screen in a commercial break, he'll survive both.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News