Last Friday night, Graham Norton welcomed on to his show the following guests: Bradley Cooper, Heather Graham and Will Smith, with his son, Jaden. Later in the show, Michael Douglas casually turned up for a chat and music was provided by Selena Gomez. Granted, all were on the promotional trail with their own respective movies and music to flog but it threw, once again, into stark contrast the bleak alternative that RTE 1 gives us on a Friday night. At approximately the same time that Norton was shooting the breeze with Hollywood A-listers, Ryan Tubridy was showcasing a group of people who had new wigs fitted. This sounds like a joke – a pop at the Late Late’s recurrent failure to attract quality guests – but it was true: a wig infomercial in the middle of what is ostensibly a light entertainment programme. That, right there, summed up the television oddity that is the Late Late Show. Other guests on the night , Anne Doyle and the cast of Fair City , were an indictment of the show’s over-reliance on former and current RTE employees. Its only, for want of a better word, notable guests were two chaps from risible UK reality show Made In Chelsea. Surely for Tubridy, who is intelligent enough to know that his show is a lame duck content-wise, a permanent move to the BBC perhaps can’t come quick enough.
What has come up for most criticism has been the glaring lack of interesting guests but throw in its ludicrously protracted two-hour running-time, tiresome viewer competitions, pointless audience interaction and an insufferable house-band and you have a show that is a kind of national embarrassment. This jarringly weird amalgam of serious discussion, z-list celebrity interviews and God knows what else, all steered by a host desperately trying to mould himself as Ireland’s answer to David Letterman, virtually guarantees it to be a trending topic on Twitter every Friday night. Defenders of the show describe it as ‘unique’ and espouse the theory that it continues to exist as Ireland is a small country, with a ‘community’ rather than a population and we watch it to enjoy a communal viewing experience. I don’t buy that. The Late Late Show should have gracefully bowed out with Gay Byrne when he retired in 1999. He brilliantly helmed the show in a different era, when shows like this had relevance in a time before social networking and shortened attention-spans. The Late Late Show now is an anachronistic relic of a bygone age, which has too long been a sacred (cash) cow on RTE’s schedules. It’s time it received a major overhaul or, better still, to be humanely put out of its misery.