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'Must-see' TV of '60s has long since become showbiz dinosaur

AHEAD of tonight's 50th anniversary Late Late love-in, current host Ryan Tubridy has already made headlines by acknowledging that the show's unwieldy length poses a constant problem.

"I don't know anyone who could stay the course that long for a chat show," he confesses in this week's RTE Guide, adding: "sometimes including myself, and I present it!"

He must be talking about all those Late Lates in which, with two interminable hours to fill, he has seemed less-than-fully engaged with many of his interviewees.

"I think I had a lapse in concentration," he says of his general performance in 2011, which is either commendably honest of him or else foolishly naive, given that one of the key -- indeed, basic -- qualities we expect from a broadcaster is an ability to concentrate on what he's doing.

Still, it points up the crucial problem with the Late Late, and one that has become increasingly apparent down through the decades that followed the show's heyday in the 1960s and 1970s: a format that once seemed so innovative has been allowed to become so tired as to test even the patience and focus of the show's presenter.

True to Montrose form, Mr Tubridy ends his RTE Guide interview by trying to cancel out what he's said earlier with an upbeat prediction for the show: "Will it still be going in 50 years? You betcha. That thing is here to stay."

If that's the case, RTE's in a lot of trouble because the Late Late long ago ceased to be the show that helped change how a country thought and felt.

Not that it bothers itself much with controversy anymore -- except, perhaps, the controversy of omission, as when Mr Tubridy neglected to question Ronan Keating about the singer's personal situation. Thirty years ago it might have been shocking to ask such things; now it's shocking if they're left unaddressed.

And the reason why such scrutiny isn't applied to guests who want to have it all their own way is because the Late Late has become all about plugging rather than questioning.

There were always such elements to the show, of course, but when all that's provided now is two hours of desultory puffery, interspersed with the odd sob story, it's hard not to wonder why RTE persists with this dinosaur.

Irish Independent