Thursday 14 December 2017

Flashback: It's been 55 years since the first episode of The Late Late Show

Gay Byrne and Sinead O'Connor on The Late Late Show in 1999
Gay Byrne and Sinead O'Connor on The Late Late Show in 1999 Newdesk

On this day in 1962, Irish television changed forever.

The Late Late Show, a light-hearted chat and entertainment showed aired at 11.30pm intended as a summer filler program. It is now the second longest-running chat show of all time, and is the flagship program of RTE. Gay Byrne, the charismatic young host, would go on to host the show for 37 years becoming the most recognised television personality in Ireland in the process.

From its inception, The Late Late has had its own share of scandal. In 1966 Playboy executive Victor Lownes had his appearance cancelled after telling the press he was hoping to recruit Irish women as ‘bunnies’ for the brand. This was followed by the ‘Bishop and the Nightie’ episode, which has since descended into TV folk lore. Based on the Mr & Mrs game show, Byrne asked Mrs Fox, from Terenure, what colour her nightie was on the night of her wedding. She first answered “transparent”, before saying she hadn’t worn one at all and then finally conceded it was “white”. The disgusted Bishop of Clonfert took to the pulpit the following day calling on a public protest against the show, a call which was largely ignored.

At the 25th Year celebration of The Dubliners on The Late Late Show, Gay Byrne and Charles J Haughey, Dublin, 06/03/1987 (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection).

Sinead O’Connor’s appearance on the show in 1999 (pictured main) after her ordination as a Tridentine priest divided opinion, as did Byrne’s contentious interview with Annie Murphy as she told her side of the story after having an affair, and child, with Bishop Eamon Casey.

Byrne’s final episode as host was watched by 1 million people, and featured interviews with comedian Billy Connelly and writer Salman Rushdie and a performance from The Corrs. President Mary Robinson and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern were amongst the live audience. U2 were also on hand to present him with a Harley Davidson as a parting gift.

99 Gay Byrne 8.jpg_Cropped.jpg
Gay Byrne with U2's Bono and Larry Mullen

Byrne was succeeded by Pat Kenny, who hosted the show for a decade, from 1999-2009. Ryan Tubridy, the shows’ current host, took over from Kenny and his debut was watched by 1.6 million viewers.

To see more photos like this, visit Independent Archives

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