Late Late needs saving from private Ryan
If Tubridy refuses to ask the hard questions, then he shouldn't be in the interviewer's chair, argues Niamh Horan
IT'S the perfect time for a fresh start. After Ryan Tubridy's uninspiring two years at the helm of The Late Late Show, last week's viewing figures for the show were, according to insiders, the lowest since he took over: 588,200 to be precise.
Behind the predictable lines of questioning and mind-numbing interviews, there's a personal gripe that Tubridy needed to shake off if he ever wanted to shine under the Late Late spotlights. And thus far he has failed miserably.
You see, Ryan hates the little people wanting to know about his private life.
He prickles at the very sight of a reporter's pen. It's "a pain in the neck", he says. "I've been through the mill" and "braved" that attention. And now he believes it leaves those close to him feeling "haunted".
Which would be all well and good, of course, if you didn't happen to be perched in the most coveted interviewer's chair in the country -- paid by us to ask people the big questions about the big stories, the ones everyone wants asked.
And if you are in that chair? Well, such an attitude makes you look at best like a lightweight with an uptight code of practice outdated in the modern-day world of showbusiness, and, at worst, a coward who's afraid to ruffle a few friends' feathers.
His seeming reluctance to press people such as Ronan Keating about their colourful private lives may be rooted in his own tendency to turn round and give a staunch "no comment" when people like myself approach him about his. Any other approach would make him look like the biggest hypocrite in television, and so rather than give answers to us he chooses to let his work suffer. And we all suffer along with him. This is a man who, friends say, reels at the very mention of his daughters' names in print and who once travelled miles out of town into the heart of the Wicklow Mountain's to the isolated surrounds of Johnny Fox's pub for a first date. He specifically told the lady in question it was so the press wouldn't find out.
The irony is of course that such a passion for privacy serves only to pique the curiosity of the media -- hence all the interest in his ties to Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain and in whether he and Laura Toogood were an item.
Indeed, it's been a rough road for the 37-year-old, who developed an uneasy relationship with the media as soon as fame took hold.
His marriage to Anne-Marie Power sadly lasted only 24 months before ending in 2006, just as his career was really taking off.
He endured reporters calling to his door and placed a fiercely protective shell around his loved ones.
So why, then, wouldn't he jump to the defence of love-rat Ronan Keating when people screamed blue murder that he let him off scot-free?
"He's trying to get on with it," he argued. "He has little children, and they're going to school today and I respect that. What more do you want? Do you want him to be grilled?"
Well, yes, actually, Ryan. We do.
He had an album to plug on your show, he was happy to use his family in video game advertisements in return for big-money deals, he presented an image to the public that was completely at odds with the one he was living behind closed doors, and we wanted some answers to the questions you were being paid to ask.
After an onslaught of media criticism and hundreds of messages directed to the star's online social networking page, you would have thought the presenter would have heard the message loud and clear.
But no. On Thursday morning, as he was announcing the headlines in his daily news review for his 2fm radio show, he came across the front-page story in the most widely read newspaper in the country. Singer Sinead O' Connor's marriage had come to an end. Without a moment's hesitation, he brushed over the report as if it didn't exist, and continued on to the next item.
It's a pity because Ryan seems like a nice guy who would be able to ask the hard questions without causing offence. Gay Byrne chose to do it in a fatherly style, his hero Parky did it in flirtatious fashion -- and Tubridy could have done it in his own quirky manner if he stopped being so righteous about it.
But he hasn't. And it's time for him to go.
There's a growing feeling that The Late Late has been flat for the last year. Certainly towards the end of last season Tubridy seemed bored on screen. The questions are bland and unimaginative and he can appear uninterested in the subject matter.
RTE has a real opportunity here to not get swept away with the media storm surrounding Tubridy's new gig and to look for a fresh face rather than hit the panic button and ensure Ryan stays for good.
A failure to do so could ultimately end the run of the world's oldest chat show.