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Toy Show's got its mojo back, thanks to Tubridy

ALL the familiar elements of a traditional Late Late Toy Show were present for Ryan Tubridy's first stint in the chair -- or should I say on the floor, because this is the one night of the year when a Late Late host's bottom barely touches a soft surface.

The elaborately dressed set, done up this year in a Wizard of Oz theme, complete with yellow brick road. The all-singing, all-dancing, all-smiling stage school brats (just pop in a couple of AA batteries and those dazzling teeth will glow until late February).

The all-nodding, all-clapping, all-swaying studio audience, eagerly whooping with joy at each free toy, shopping voucher and hamper of goodies.

But there was also something new -- or at least relatively unfamiliar -- this year: a genuine sense of fun. I grew up with the Toy Show in the 70s. While it's a common practice for the jaded adult, the sparkle of childhood wonderment in our eyes long since replaced by a weary glaze, to observe that things aren't as good these days as they were when we were kids, there's no doubt that the Toy Show had lost its mojo in recent years.

Despite Pat Kenny's annual declaration that he was going to shed his inhibitions and get down with the kids, the most he ever seemed to shed was his suit and tie, replaced by the requisite comfy jumper, which often looked as much of an ill-fit on him as the show itself.

Tubridy is a very different animal. From the moment he appeared, wearing a comparatively low-key maroon jumper with ne'er a fluffy reindeer or fat Santa in sight, he darted excitedly around the set like a big kid in a toyshop.

"It's Sesame Street -- hooray!" he yelled, practically diving into a pile of cuddly toys from the venerable children's series, 40 years old this year. His kids, he told us, said he resembled Ernie; which, I suppose, makes Pat Kenny Bert and Gay Byrne Oscar the Grouch.


Tubridy has a way of bantering and interacting with the kids that they didn't. Watching a little blond lad with a face moulded for mischief bashing hell out of a construction set, he quipped: "That's great. That'll last a week."

He seemed only slightly fazed when a couple of cheeky little chaps in porkpie hats, who were supposed to be demonstrating toys, badgered him into trying the Moonwalk. "You didn't do this in rehearsals, lads," he said with mock trepidation, but he gamely gave it a go anyway.

The only point at which Tubridy seemed slightly overwhelmed was when the dreaded Jedward burst on the scene, in their matching suits, matching hair, matching faces, matching voices and matching dumbness, to scamper pointlessly about the studio for a few minutes

With the restraints of The X Factor removed and no buffer between them and the real world, they look and sound even more preposterous than previously. Expect the batteries in the Christmas toys to last longer than this pair. Otherwise, this was a terrific show.