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Tuesday 30 May 2023 Dublin: 16°C
Andres Poveda
# Late Late Show
Ryan Tubridy's final Late Late Show reminds us of what RTÉ's flagship programme can be
The end of an era.

THE MUPPETS? THE Muppets? The Muppets?! Come on now. The Muppets?

Tonight, Ryan Tubridy had the singular honour of being bid goodbye by two Muppet emissaries (Animal and his fellow band member Floyd Pepper). It’s a most enviable way to sign off from any job, and I can only pray that when I retire that The Journal will be so kind as to hire at least one B-list Muppet to bid me adieu.

It should be clear to you by now that when I was asked to write a retrospective of Ryan Tubridy’s final show in charge of the Late Late Show after 14 years, I did not know that The Muppets would be involved. 

I would have been able to write a more balanced piece had there been no Muppets. But as a man who has dedicated much of his life to The Muppets — watching The Muppets (their movies, their many TV shows, their various solo creative content), attending Muppets museum exhibitions, and paying handsomely for Muppets merchandise, I am struggling to look beyond the honour that Ryan Tubridy has enjoyed this evening. But I shall try.

Tonight’s episode of The Late Late Show, the last of Tubridy’s 14-year stint as host, was designed to tug on the heartstrings, and anyone who is a fan of the show will likely agree that it succeeded in that aim.

After opening with an interview with President Michael D Higgins, which few would argue was anything but dull, there were separate segments that saw Tubridy interacting with the many child stars of the Toy Show over the years.

Tubridy, perhaps more than his predecessors, was known for coming to life during the Christmas special, and tonight’s finale would have held much interest for anyone who has spent the last several years wondering whatever became of John Joe the horologist.

Unsurprisingly, little astro-enthusiast Adam King remains the star of the show whenever he’s onscreen, but perhaps there is a kudos to be offered to Ryan Tubridy for his willingness to get out of the way and let children like Adam take centre-stage and make themselves icons before the Irish zeitgeist.

As I begin to write to next the paragraph, I am suppressing any bitterness about the reality that The Muppets know who Ryan Tubridy is but don’t know who I am.

Later in the show, Tubridy was joined by, among others, Charlie Bird and Joanne O’Riordain, who reflected upon the show’s power to offer a platform to Irish people with a unique experience of life and bring their stories into the national conversation.

Clearly, those who planned tonight’s show see Tubridy’s legacy is one of platforming the stories of those who have overcome adversity. It would be impossible to distil Tubridy’s 14-year tenure into one two-hour episode of The Late Late Show, but tonight certainly reminded the audience of what The Late Late Show can do when it operates in service of the public.

Though they were not there in person, The Edge and Bono beamed in from their glamorous lives from Los Angeles or Monaco or wherever the hell it is they live these days. There were also video messages of support from Academy Award-nominated actors Saoirse Ronan and Jessie Buckley, and music legend Paul McCartney. The kind of guests who The Late Late Show cannot pull from week to week.

In an echo of the gift received by Gay Byrne, Tubridy was presented with a red Vespa driven by PJ Gallagher and paid for by U2 (why U2 are the ones tasked with buying the gift for the outgoing Late Late Show host is beyond me, but fair play to them). 

“I should retire more often,” Tubridy concluded, emphasising his gratitude and his love for the unique opportunity he has embodied over the last decade and a half. Tubs, who turns 50 this weekend, managed his emotions well and kept himself steady through to the end of the emotional show, in a creditable testament to his professionalism as a broadcaster.

It was not an overstated goodbye, and it did not rely on self-aggrandising set-pieces to make its point. Instead, it platformed many of the fascinating guests who have made an impression on the Late Late over the last 14 years. For a show about Tubridy, it wasn’t all that much about Tubridy.

So if you see Ryan riding around town on his shiny red Vespa, ask him to give you a honk. He’ll love it.

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