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A fitting tribute to Late Late

The most positive thing you can say about The Late Late Show's 50th anniversary bash -- and this really IS meant as a positive -- is that it provided an enchanting whiff of the good old days.

THERE was plenty of colour, variety and, if not quite controversy, then at least a lot to talk about the next day. Not that the good old days were good all the time. Gay Byrne, who was as much the recipient of Friday night's tribute as the show itself, man and programme being indivisible for so long, had his share of duds on his 37-year watch. People only remember the good ones, though.

More than a few of them, from both the Byrne and Pat Kenny eras, were recalled here: that loathsome, arrogant creep Padraig Flynn slitting his political throat in 1999; Brendan Gleeson launching an impassioned attack on the state of the country's hospitals in 2006; wife-killer Joe O'Reilly's chillingly composed appearance alongside his mother-in-law, Rose Callely, in 2004, and the infamous moment from 1991 when Gaybo, in a rare example of misreading the mood of his audience, told Annie Murphy if the son she'd had with Bishop Eamon Casey was "half the man his father was", he'd be a good one.

Mercifully, there was no place for Boyzone's debut -- a clip that's been overused to the point of exhaustion -- or any mention of the hackneyed bishop and the nightie affair.

The showbiz-heavy studio audience was full of familiar faces, giving the two-and-a-half-hour special the air of An Audience With . . . more than a conventional LLS.

Down on the studio floor -- and judging by Liam Neeson's appearance, backstage too -- a party atmosphere prevailed. Pat Kenny, who came on after Gaybo, was as relaxed and charming as we've ever seen him, which just made you wish he'd loosened up during his time in the hot seat. There was a handful of what Kenny called "water cooler moments".

Sinead O'Connor sang Nothing Compares 2U dressed as a priest. Dustin the turkey, popping up in the cheap seats, made a spectacularly off-colour joke. Nell McCafferty demanded some of the whiskey Tommy Tiernan had brought on for Tubridy, Byrne and Kenny, and briefly turned it into a whiskey sour by mildly berating Tubridy for suggesting the Late Late should be cut to 90 minutes. Best of all, the insufferable Adele King (aka the insufferable Twink) had her zeppelin-sized ego punctured when Patrick Kielty pretended to walk off during one of her interminable, me-me-me anecdotes.

This was, by Irish standards, a star-studded affair, capped with appearances by Imelda May and Bono, but the night belonged to the man who started it all. Playful, mischievous and, when the moment demanded it, surprisingly sentimental, Gaybo soaked up the adoration and the accolades -- as he's entitled to in the circumstances.

There was, dare I say it, something for (almost) everyone in the audience.

The departure of TV Burp on Saturday evenings has left ITV with a big, Harry Hill-shaped hole to fill. So big that they've brought Harry Hill in to fill it.

No, he's not back on our screens, but he is the executive producer on the woeful You Cannot Be Serious!, in which Alistair McGowan takes a look at the week's sports stories. Oh, and does some impressions. In this first one he did Adrian Chiles. Twice. And new England manager Roy Hodgson. Twice. It doesn't get any funnier the second time.

The problem is there simply aren't enough funny sports stories in a week to fill a half-hour programme, forcing McGowan, who writes the lame script with the help of half-a-dozen others, to repeat himself. Did I mention it doesn't get any funnier the second time? See -- I'M doing it now!