Friday 24 November 2017

Anton Savage hits out at The Late Late Show: 'We think of it as an heirloom, not entertainment'

Anton Savage (inset) has hit out at The Late Late Show
Anton Savage (inset) has hit out at The Late Late Show
Linda Martin and Al Porter opening The Late Late Show Valentine's special Photo: Andres Poveda
A real dead ringer for love - Linda Martin and Al Porter opening The Late Late Show Valentine's Special. Picture Andres Poveda

Anton Savage

Several hundred people complained about last Friday's Late Late Show. They e-mailed, called and, according to reports, filed formal complaints. This is because the show contained sexual content. Smut. Filth.

I can't attest to the quality of the programme - for me, World War Two, The Complete History on YouTube was far too compelling to abandon in favour of some randy lad from Laois trying to get his leg over on national TV to the sound of Linda Martin.

But nearly half of the viewing public were glued to the festival of randiness that the state broadcaster beamed into their homes.

The complaints came thanks to the weird legacy of permanent disappointment that attaches to The Late Late Show - everyone thinks it's failing to be something it never was; the programme was never designed to be a lens on the nation. It was meant to be entertaining fluff.

The Late Late Show Valentine's Special
The Late Late Show Valentine's Special

It was designed as a copy of NBC's Tonight Show. We forget this, which is why we often claim the Late Late is the longest-running chat show in the world, when it isn't.

The Tonight Show had zero scruples about social responsibility. Neither did it have much in the way of scruples about what we'd now view as quality.

One highlight in its early days was "stump the band" in which audience members would see if the band knew obscure songs. Exciting stuff, huh?

One of the all-time highlights was Johnny Carson wearing a turban as the clairvoyant Carnac the Magnificent while reading out punchlines to gags that had not yet been told.

Linda Martin and Al Porter opening The Late Late Show Valentine's special Photo: Andres Poveda
Linda Martin and Al Porter opening The Late Late Show Valentine's special Photo: Andres Poveda

On other nights he brought on animals in the hope they would hilariously urinate on him.

On this side of the water, The Late Late got its serious bits like traditional dinner gets spuds - carbs to pack out the protein.

In the absence of A-listers, the RTE flagship threw in some current affairs and human interest and filled otherwise empty hours.

Now, because the show is on for so long, and because it has such extraordinary primacy, we've begun to think of it as an heirloom, not entertainment.

The Late Late Show Valentine's Special
The Late Late Show Valentine's Special

The Tonight Show was protected from the same fate by competition - knock-offs grew like weeds around and against NBC's talk show, removing the sense of it being the only game in town.

Meanwhile, the Late Late was shielded by RTE's monopoly until it grew so large that its scale starved Friday nights of all possible competitors.

However, that doesn't change its genesis - if Steve Allen or Jack Paar or Johnny Carson magically appeared in Montrose, they would recognise last Friday's bawdy broadcast much more quickly than they would a current affairs panel.

The Late Late is doing what it was always meant to do - getting ratings. If you don't like it, grow up, resist the urge to send e-mails and watch something else - like World War Two, The Complete History. It really gets going after hour eight.

Herald

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