60 years of The Late Show (RTÉ One, Friday) is a milestone – not only in Irish broadcasts, but in Irish social history. Annie Murphy talks about her relationship with Eamon Casey. Terry Keane drops bombshell on her romance with Charles Haughey. Pádraig Flynn bemoans the challenge of maintaining three residences. Guy Byrne quietly acts as straight man, interrogator, and hangman, and these tipping points and others are scorched into the collective consciousness of generations.
Of course, that was back then, and this anniversary edition, hosted by Ryan Tubridy, could be considered a reminder of how irrelevant being late had become. But that would be an unnecessarily negative perception, and as the festivities go on, the episode is often valuable.
“We gather here tonight to celebrate a celestial milestone,” Tubridi said in his opening monologue. “60 years into Late Late…before TikTok, before there were a million on-demand streaming services…everyone in the audience had one…”
“Mother Teresa, Audrey Hepburn, Brenda Frick, Katie Taylor,” he continued, before paying tribute to “our Founding Father, Guy Byrne,” some guests in the past It has graced evening parties for decades.
This was followed by video congratulations from various celebrities, including comedian Peter Kay and actor Michael Fassbender, who appeared to be sitting in the top of a tree somewhere while trying on his American accent.
There are all kinds of guests. Oscar-nominated Kerry actress Jessie Buckley and former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler (whose family is from Dun Laoghaire) discuss their new music project. Buckley also talked about wearing a Charlie Chaplin-esque moustache for the recent Met Ball in New York — a decision she made on the spur of the moment, as she was about to walk out the door. And about Lost Daughter’s Oscar nomination.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I have zero expectations. It’s a crazy thing.”
Tubridy also interviewed boxing champions Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke. Had an expletive-filled chat with Aslan’s Christy Dignam, who blurted out *** and then, for good measure, dropped another F-bomb by accident. Tubridy smiled and had no choice.
Music has always been part of the Late Late Show formula, from U2’s early appearances to the existential horror of Boyzone’s 1993 appearance with too much denim overalls and incoherent dancing. This week, Mario Rosenstock plays Christy Moore in a comedic twist (“Once upon a time, back in time, late night, was a guy named Guy…”). Dermot Kennedy’s presence is accompanied by orchestral accompaniment, whose emotional vocals are slightly over the edge (if there’s one thing Kennedy’s music doesn’t need to do, it’s further embellishment).
The emotional centerpiece of the broadcast was an interview with Charlie Bird and his wife Claire Molde. Due to motor neurone disease, Byrd lost the ability to speak and communicate with a voice-clone machine operated by a tablet.
“In my opinion, it helped shape modern Ireland… The late-night show is what most politicians and news people want to be on,” he said through the device. “P. Flynn, his salary, the cost of maintaining three houses. The night Terry Keane and Guy were together, she had a shocking romance with Charlie Howie.”
No one’s going to pretend the late-night show has the same place in the national psyche as it did when Guy Byrne hosted it (though when historian Catherine Corless begins discussing the Tuam mother-and-baby home scandal in 2021, it It may be close – she’s back tonight to Tubridy for helping her through a tough interview).
Gay Byrne’s Ireland was a strange, closed place. As it marks 60 years, the best compliment that can be given to a latecomer is that in helping an emotionally isolated nation reopen its shutters, it did its part to make Ireland another country – and late Or is just another chat show.