Ann Marie Hourihane: Ryan Tubridy’s last hurrah showed exactly why The Late Late Show needs a major reboot
Not since the Flight of the Earls has an Irish departure had this sort of publicity.
“It’s the weirdest night of my life,” said Ryan Tubridy. And you couldn’t blame him.
We were deep in part two by then, and had already experienced a costume change, an interview with the President about The Famine and Ryan getting a bit emotional. Also two promotions for the €14,000 cash prize.
It was before Sir Paul McCartney. But it was during all the Toy Show veterans who had, as Ryan said, earned a place in all our hearts. Whatever about Ryan’s heart, our heads were spinning. There was no mention of Toy Show - The Musical.
We bounced between the past and the present. Sometimes it was unsettling. For a start, when did the booming voiceover at the beginning of the programme say “To Whom It Concerns” rather than “To Whom It May Concern”. What have I missed?
It had all started so well, with Ryan coming out to a standing ovation, and looking terrific. But that turned out to be a clip of his first Late Late Show 14 years ago. It was a bit confusing, and not just for Ryan. The only person who seemed to be clear about what was happening was President Michael D Higgins, who reminded Ryan that he had been on The Late Late Show seven times in the past 14 years. Which is a lot. Is Michael D never out of the Late Late studio? Or is Ryan never out of Áras an Uachtaráin?
“We’ll never fall out,” said Michael D and Ryan. “No.” “No”. “No.”
The contemporary Ryan came on the set to Live and Let Die, a very old Bond tune.
Floyd and Animal from The Muppets made a guest appearance because, they said, they knew Ryan loves the Muppets”. Which isn’t really the perfect reason to have Floyd and Animal on prime time television with no script.
It was at this point that my mother said: “This is as bad as the real Late Late Show.”
Then there was the moment that Ryan was interviewed by Andrea Corr and Moya Brennan so that he could say “I love this country.” Was it wrong to think that maybe this was a little bit too much about Ryan?
The Edge talked to Ryan: “We’ve had some great shows together… you are so popular in Ireland. ” Bono talked to Ryan, and sang him Born To Be Wild. U2 had bought him a red Vespa because, as Bono said, he is more than a mod than a rocker. This was accurate. (When Gay Byrne retired from The Late Late, U2 bought him a roaring motorbike. Because, presumably, Gay was a rocker. Also Gay Byrne was well known for his love of all machines in possession of an engine.)
Then Ryan told his family that he loved them, which was nice. So now we’d had The Famine, loving the country, the family and €28,000 in cash. These are the core values of The Late Late as it is now. Ryan was played out by the celebrity musicians singing the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love. Because Ryan loves the Beatles. And it is a lovely song.
In his introduction to the show, Ryan had spoken warmly about Patrick Kielty, his successor. He said he was sure he was leaving The Late Late “in a safe pair of hands” Somehow, as the President and Ryan nodded at each other and Ryan rang that Presidential bell and Andrea and Moya interviewed him, you could not help wishing that the next pair of hands were a little less safe.
Presenting The Late Late seems to be a terrible job. The permanent scrutiny in the outside world. The ever-growing competition. The ceaseless criticism, no matter how justified. For Ryan Tubridy, this might be like getting out of jail. In the blooper tape issued by RTÉ before last night’s programme - which featured only the most recent bloopers, and most of those seemed to have come from rehearsals, which was a bit unfair - we saw a more relaxed and waspish Ryan. I wish we’d seen him like that more often: as his adult self and to hell with his inner child.
Overall, the farewell show was a bit of a let-down. It had no peak moment. And it contained within it the very reasons - self-congratulation, sentiment and back-slapping - that The Late Late become got so tired and is desperately in need of not just a new presenter but of a major reboot.
But Ryan is professional enough to say that he was thrilled by his farewell programme. He said that he should retire more often. My mother was not available for comment.