The king of smooth's the man for this job
There seemed to be something not quite right, and certainly not encouraging, about Ryan Tubridy enlisting the Taoiseach in order to lend his first edition of the 'Late Late Show' a spurious gravitas -- especially when the Taoiseach in question, to put it kindly, could hardly be regarded as an audience magnet.
But Brian Cowen was what those tuning into Tubridy's 'Late Late' debut got as the first guest, with actress Joan Collins -- 76-years-old now and unknown to anyone under the age of 40 -- resuscitated from the celebrity crypt as the night's other main supposed celebrity allure. Oh dear.
And, really, what's with this latter-day practice of telling the viewer in advance what's going to be on the show? The whole point of Gay Byrne's 'Late Late' was its insistence on surprise, so when you're told all day by RTE that Brian Cowen, Joan Collins, Sharon Corr, David Gray and one of the Westlife guys are to be the main guests, you may very well think that you'd be better off spending that particular Friday night finding some other means of entertainment.
In the event -- and as if to immediately set down a marker that there's more to his broadcasting persona than that of a cocky motormouth obsessed with trivia -- Tubridy kept at the Taoiseach like a ferret, not just asking him all the hard questions but repeating them tenaciously when his interviewee seemed more interested in changing the subject.
It was easily the best interview I've ever seen with Brian Cowen and, to be fair to the Taoiseach, he rose to the grilling with a refreshing degree of forthrightness, even if this was obviously in canny acknowledgment of the cheers Tubridy's hard questions were getting from the studio audience.
Westlife's Brian McFadden expressed his surprise at this newly energised and more ruthless Tubridy -- pointing out that the Tubridy he knew from old would have asked the Taoiseach who was his favourite Spice Girl.
The McFadden interview, though, was a good deal more troublesome, the interviewer swimming in tabloid waters as he quizzed the singer about his former spouse, and mother of his children, Kerry Katona -- who, not being there, had no one to defend her against the host's tittle-tattle and her ex-husband's disapproval.
Joan Collins and Cherie Blair followed, along with one-for-everyone-in-the-audience freebies, and the host coasted through it all with an easy and assured aplomb that was missing during Pat Kenny's decade on the show.
In brief, Tubridy's clearly the man for the job and, boy, does he know it.