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O'Brien said he thinks Kielty is "well set" to handle the position. Alamy Stock Photo
The Late Late Show

Media history expert says The Late Late Show needs to 'bring back its unpredictability'

The professor said if the show returned to the unpredictable format, it would bring back the energy of the show and “make it lively”.

ON THE MOST recent episode of The Explainer podcast, Head of Dublin City University’s School of Communications Mark O’Brien said that the Late Late Show needs to “bring back that unpredictability” the show had previously.

Ryan Tubridy will make his last appearance as host of the world’s second longest-running late-night talk show this evening and will pass the role over to the show’s fourth host, Patrick Kielty.

O’Brien, who is also an associate professor of journalism history, said when the show first began “you either watched it, or you didn’t – that was the choice”.

“But I think nowadays, if you want to have the audience make an appointment to watch the show, it needs to bring back that unpredictability,” the professor added.

O’Brien compared the current format of the talk show to fellow RTÉ flagship, the Tommy Tiernan Show: “The unique thing about the Tommy Tiernan show is nobody knows who is going to appear. So you tune in with expectations – or without expectations I should say – and that adds to the unpredictability. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Patrick Kielty, who announced last week that he would become the newest host of the programme, also recently appeared as a guest on the Tommy Tiernan Show. O’Brien said he thinks Kielty is “well set” to handle the position.

The Late Late Show, which began in the early 1960s on RTÉ, would book a wide variety of guests for each episode, O’Brien told host Laura Byrne.

However, the panel of guests was kept a secret from the public until it was time to broadcast and, according to the professor, were only introduced to host Gay Byrne very briefly before the show.

During the episode, the guests discuss the beginnings of the Late Late Show and it’s impact on Irish society overall.

Kirsty Blake Knox, writer with the Irish Independent, suggested that the show be “revised going forward”.

The professor suggested if the programme returned to the unpredictable format, it would bring back the energy of the show and “make it lively”.

Broadcasting legend Gay Byrne had many firsts on the show, including the host position. According to O’Brien the Byrne-era of the show was “the right show, in the right place, at the right time” and broke the mold of the Irish media landscape.

According to O’Brien, Byrne was “hand-picked” for the slot: “The idea was that the older audience would tune in to see some distinguished guests and the younger audience would tune in to see Gay Byrne.”

While the journalism history professor commended both Tubridy and his predecessor Pat Kenny by bringing a more “highly polished, highly produced” version of the show, he added that the programme’s place in Irish culture was outshone by the arrival of satellite television and social media.

Blake Knox said that she thinks Tubridy brought the show to a younger audience and that RTÉ chose him as host because he “always sold himself as an old fogy”.

O’Brien agreed with Blake Knox and said that there was enough difference between Tubridy and his predecessor to allow him to build his own persona – however still could not contrast to Gay Byrne’s skill set.

“It’s hard to break that connection or relationship between Gay Byrne and the Late Late Show,” O’Brien said.

The Explainer delved deep into the history of the show this week with Mark O’Brien and Kirsty Blake Knox, writer with the Irish Independent.

You can listen to the full episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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