Tuesday 27 September 2016

The all-singing, all-dancing, 40th Toy Show - with Tubs in his element

Published 28/11/2015 | 02:30

Ryan Tubridy pictured during the opening of the RTÉ Late Late Toy Show
Ryan Tubridy pictured during the opening of the RTÉ Late Late Toy Show
Faye Keohane, who sang on the ‘Toy Show’ last night

While he clearly has some skills as a broadcaster, Ryan Tubridy's tenure at the helm of 'The Late Late Show' has been... Well, let's be kind (Christmas is coming, after all) and say "mixed".

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Ratings are holding relatively okay, but the critical and social media response is pretty poor, and seems to be getting worse. However, where Tubridy indisputably comes into his own is during the annual 'Toy Show'.

It's an Irish institution: one of those quirky, impossible-to-explain-to-foreigners things that we do quite well, and a central part of our shared Christmas experience.

And, in Tubridy, the 'Toy Show' is better than it's ever been. Yes, you read that right: better than Gaybo, even.

Ironically for a guy who made his bones with a "young fogey" image - knits, books, lounge music, that slightly baffling obsession with US politics - Tubridy is the perfect fit for a show that, ostensibly at least, revolves around children.

He's relaxed, enthused and lively. He always seems, unlike the usual, stiff-backed Ryan, to be having fun with all of this. He's into it, in a way he sometimes doesn't seem to be with the usual 'Late Late' stuff.

Of course, maybe the secret is that the 'Toy Show' isn't actually for kids at all.

It's a show about children, filled with them, devoted to them and their interests - but the target audience is actually the mammies and daddies, the uncles and aunts, grannies and grandads. And, amusingly, the young hipsters who've taken to the 'Toy Show' with an ironic zeal.

Anyway, last night's was the 40th anniversary of the first 'Toy Show', and perhaps to mark this auspicious occasion, Tubridy broke with tradition by - shock - not coming out in the Christmas jumper.

Instead he was rocking a sort of "velvet-clad dandy" look - think 'Dangerous Liaisons' crossed with Prince in his 1980s pomp - as the character Lumiere from 'Beauty and the Beast' for an opening musical number from the Disney film.

The set design was beautiful, incidentally. If we were pretentious, we would say at this point that we divined Art Nouveau influences, and subtle nods to Cocteau's classic black-and-white version of 'Beauty and the Beast'. But we're not.

From then on, the 'Toy Show' followed a well-worn route, and proper order too. That's why we watch these shows (same applies to things such as 'The Rose of Tralee').

We don't want to be surprised; we want comfort and familiarity and routine, even to the point where they become sort of cringey and a bit of a joke, but the joke itself then forms part of the familiar routine.

SO WE had little kids singing show tunes, guiding Ryan through a selection of different toys, having the craic with him (and he with them, in fairness), and generally being impossibly cute. And I, being the bibliophilic hardliner that I am, particularly liked the extensive selection of books they covered. Yeah, it's all pretty schmaltzy, and probably even a little manipulative - but who, honestly, can resist a cute kid at Christmas time?

I reckon even old Ebeneezer himself would have been rather charmed by this 'Toy Show'.

Good work, Tubs.

Irish Independent

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