Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Late Late Show
The Late Late Show is Ireland's longest running chat show and the flagship television programme of Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ). The show, hosted by Pat Kenny, is broadcast live for two hours in front of a studio audience at 9.30pm on Friday nights between September and May. The show was previously broadcast on Saturday nights.
The Late Late Show was first broadcast on Friday, July 6, 1962 at 11:20pm. Since then, its format has remained largely the same, with music, chat, and audience involvement in debates on topical issues. The show's rapid rise to popularity led it to top the ratings consistently on RTÉ for forty years. Some sociologists have credited it with influencing Irish attitudes towards many issues.
|Gay Byrne||Friday, July 6, 1962||Friday, May 21 1999||chat show, variety show|
|Frank Hall||Took over from Byrne for one season in the late 1960s||-|
|Pat Kenny||Friday, September 10, 1999||To be announced||-|
When the show was launched, its original presenter was Gay Byrne, a young Irish broadcaster who had been working with Granada Television in Britain. Byrne remained the presenter for thirty-seven years until retiring in 1999. His 37 year stewardship of The Late Late Show means that he has hosted a chat show longer than any other presenter. Indeed, Byrne's style of presentation is credited as contributing largely to the show's success. Internationally Byrne's presentation style has been studied by 'would be' chat show hosts in many countries.
Although the show began as a light summer "filler" in 1962, it soon became a forum for controversial opinion and debate. Topics such as divorce, contraception and a number of hitherto undiscussed areas were now being debated openly on television. The show seemed to represent the new liberalism of the 1960s in Ireland when the Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, was attacked by a guest in the show's first series. It is difficult to explain today just how sensational and shocking so many many people in Ireland found this event to be. The country was devoutly Roman Catholic.
This incident was just one of a number of incidents that have gone down the folklore associated with the programme. The Late Late Show, with Byrne as host, was never reluctant to introduce controversial topics, topics which needed to be discussed in a progressive, post-protectionist Ireland. Other controversies include:
- The Bishop and the Nightie Affair: In 1966 a minor furore errupted when the Bishop of Galway condemned The Late Late Show as immoral. The condemnation stems from a small item on the show in which Byrne was interviewing a number of couples to see how well they knew each other. Byrne asked a young woman if she could remember what colour her nightdress was on the first night of her married life. The woman innocently repled that she might not have worn one. This response was received with laughter by Byrne and the studio audience, however the Bishop felt the need to protest against this "filthy" programme. The furore died down after a number of weeks but is still remembered more for the innocence of the complaint than for the controversy it caused.
- Brian Travaskis: Not long after the show began in the 1960s there was a particular debate on the programme about the Catholic Church. Brian Travaskis , a young student, criticised the Bishop of Galway for not helping the underprivileged, who instead built a large new cathedral which Travaskis described as a "monstrosity." Travaskis also criticised the Bishop's Christian views. The insults proved too much and the student was brought back on the programme the following week to make an apology. On the second show Travaskis went further referring to the Bishop as a "moron." The controversy which surrounded the statement proved too much and Travaskis subsequently committed suicide.
- Peter Brooke: In 1992 the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Brook appeared on The Late Late Show. After a very pleasant interview with Byrne the politician was coaxed into singing "Oh My Darling Clementine." The incident would not have caused controversy on a normal night, however, the IRA exploded a bomb earlier in the day, killing a number of people. The whole incident was deemed to be in extremely bad taste considering what had happened and Brooke was removed from the British Cabinet.
- Gerry Adams: Following the abolition of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, which prohibited television interviews with people associated with paramilitary organisations, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin appered on the programme. At the time of the interview the peace process was not at an advanced stage and Byrne was warned by the Director-General and the controller of programmes not to shake hands with Adams. Byrne protested, explaining that as a guest on the show he was entitled to be greeted in the normal way.
- Terry Keane: The Late Late Show continued to cause controversy right up to Byrne's departure. On his second last show he interviewed the gossip columnist Terry Keane , who went on to reveal a long affair with the former Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey.
During Byrne's Late Late Show a number of shows were devoted entirely to paying tribure to some person or persons. A number of celebrities who were the subject of such shows include Micheál MacLiammoir, Maureen Potter, Micheál Ó Hehir, Brian Lenihan, Jimmy Magee and Paul McGrath. There were also special programmes marking the six-month anniversary of the Omagh Bomb, paying tribute to The Chieftains and The Dubliners, celebrating Irish music and a Late Late Show special devoted to Irish comedians.
Producer and director
The flexibility of the show was augmented by Byrne's position not merely as the show's presenter but also as its producer and director for much of his period with the show. He intentionally reminded the viewer that the show was being broadcast live through his interaction with people working behind the scenes. Some of his phrases became well known; when instructing that a piece of videotape be played, he invariably announced 'you can roll it there, Colette', chat to the floor manager, inquiring as to what telephone line a caller was ringing in on, and on some shows would extend its running time by fifteen or thirty minutes, discussing the extra running time with the floor staff and production team as an 'aside' during an interview. The effect of all these mannerisms was said to add to the sense of realism in the show, that, as the theme music at the end of the show stated, 'it started on The Late Late Show.' (This was a clip of a Nat King Cole song 'The Late Late Show', which appeared on his 1959 album 'Big Band Cole').
Byrne presented his last Late Late Show on Friday, May 21, 1999. The show, beginning at 9:30pm lasted four hours, twice as long as a normal Late Late Show. The tributes poured in for Gay Byrne from all quarters and there were many high-profile guests, including President Mary McAleese, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Billy Connolly, U2 members Bono and Larry Mullen (who presented Byrne with a brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycle), Sarah Brightman and Salman Rushdie. There were also tributes from many of Byrne's colleagues at RTÉ.
In the late 1960s, with the start of BBC 2, Byrne decided to return to British television, where his career had originally began. The Late Late Show was passed to another stalwart presenter, Frank Hall. After one year, Byrne agreed to return to RTÉ to present his old show, augmented by his own award winning radio show.
In 1999, having presented the show for 37 years, along with a radio show for approximately 20 years, Byrne stepped down from fulltime broadcasting, though he remains an occasional broadcaster, returning to do such shows as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (which was controversially axed by RTÉ in June 2003).
The retirement of Byrne left RTÉ with a problem. The Late Late Show dominated its TAM ratings (viewership figures). Without it, it risked losing its dominance on Friday nights to the other stations available to Irish viewers; Britain's BBC One, BBC Two, UTV, Channel 4 and the various Sky satellite channels, as well as Ireland's own TV3 and TG4. Some suggested that the show be dropped, arguing that the day of chat shows was over and that the show's success was too linked with Byrne to work with any other presenter.
RTÉ however, supported by Byrne, decided to keep the show, arguing that it was too valuable a franchise to lose, particularly when it would then be open to the possibility of TV3 (a new and largely unwatched Irish station whose lack of Irish programming was being criticised extensively) launching a new show using the name and capturing many of the show's traditional viewer base. While media reports suggested that comedians and chat show hosts Patrick Kielty and Graham Norton might be asked to present it, and Byrne had groomed Joe Duffy, someone he thought could take on both his radio and TV shows, RTÉ gave the show to Byrne's main rival, Pat Kenny, who for nearly a decade had presented his own Kenny Live show in the Late Late's old Saturday night spot.
The choice of Kenny was controversial. Kenny was criticised as a wooden and overly boring presenter. His show Kenny Live had a long rivalry with the Late Late, with their staffs even clashing on one occasion. Initially Kenny talked of "parking" the Late Late for a few years; instead in was Kenny Live that was parked. Kenny brought with him his entire Kenny Live staff while most of the outgoing Late Late staff left with Byrne.
In a controversial move, Kenny and his staff changed almost every aspect of the Late Late. Its distinctive title music (an instrumental version of the Chris Andrews 1965 UK Top Twenty hit 'To Whom It Concerns') was axed, as was its graphics package. Guests instead of remaining on were to be only involved in their own segment. A new set abandoned the traditional presenter's desk. Unlike Byrne, Kenny had his guests announced in advance. Other than the name and the use of an owl as the show's symbol, and a traditional toy show edition, when the presenter and specially brought in children looked at the lastest toys available for the Christmas market, little of Byrne's The Late Late Show survived Byrne's retirement. Even the show's two catch-phrases, "it started on The Late Late Show", and "one for everyone in the audience" (when having shown some item on the show, Byrne would announce how there was "one for everyone in the audience" to audience delirium) were dropped.
The public response to the changes was almost wholly negative. A show that had almost invariably featured in the top three in the TAM ratings (usually at number 1) dropped out of the top ten. Set adjustments were adopted, while over time Kenny's previously wooden performances changed as he became more relaxed, but he still failed to achieve the informality of Byrne. In addition the fractionalisation of the viewership, which had an ever-growing list of alternative channels to watch, hit the new Kenny Late Late, which overall lost one-third of Byrne's viewing numbers. However by Kenny's third season, the show recovered somewhat, climbing high in the TAMs again.
RTÉ management however remained worried about weaknesses in the new Kenny Late Late Show. In May 2003, as the programme finished its most recent season and went off air for three months, media reports suggested that a wholescale review of the Late Late was being ordered, with the show having a redesigned set and style when it returns in September 2003. In part RTÉ's worries were based on the threatened launch of a rival one hour chat show to be presented by controversial journalist, author and soccer-pundit, Eamon Dunphy on TV3.
Since then, the Late Late Show's ratings have fluctuated, but Kenny still remains a very popular host.
The Live Mike
Within Ireland, the only rival to Byrne's Late Late Show came from within RTÉ. Initially it was from a succession of shows presented by Mike Murphy , a presenter who did more comedy than Byrne and who pitched his shows, notably the acclaimed The Live Mike at a comedic level, including such elements as a candid camera set-up of unsuspecting members of the public (including Byrne once, whom Murphy tormented in the guise of a quizzical Frenchman in Trinity College Dublin, constantly getting into camera shot and asking questions while Byrne, increasingly irritated, tried to record a 'promo'). The Live Mike was said to introduce onto television the comedic humour of satirist Dermot Morgan.
Saturday Live & Kenny Live
When Byrne decided in the late 1980s to move The Late Late Show from Saturdays to Fridays to give himself the weekend off from broadcasting, RTÉ initially filled the Saturday slot with a show called Saturday Live. That show had a series of guest presenters, including the Leader of Fine Gael Alan Dukes, Rhonda Paisley (daughter of the Rev. Ian Paisley), soccer pundit Eamon Dunphy and current affairs broadcaster Pat Kenny, whose own first attempt at a chat show, The Pat Kenny Show had failed. Kenny proved such a success in the Saturday Live show that he was given it under the name Kenny Live and it offered The Late Late Show its first real homegrown challenge in popularity.
Parkinson & The Late Late Show on Channel 4
By the 1970s, Byrne's only major challenger was the BBC's Parkinson, with Michael Parkinson, who admitted viewing Byrne as one of his broadcasting idols and admiring his broadcasting style. In the 1980s, a one-hour version of the previous weekend's Late Late began to be broadcast on Channel 4, ironically in an early slot, where it drew large audiences. Channel 4 executives who came to Dublin to see the Late Late for themselves admitted to their astonishment on discovering that the show ran for two hours (far longer than any equivalent show on British TV) not merely the one hour they received, and that the two hours were live.
The Dunphy Show
When The Late Late Show began its new season in September 2003, a number of changes were launched, including a new set and a re-arranged theme music that incorporated a strong drum beat that bore some resemblance to the old opening to the old show theme. It had a new rival, The Dunphy Show whose host, Eamon Dunphy attacked Gay Byrne in the media for suggesting that the Irish market was not big enough to carry two rival chat shows on the one night, and that Dunphy would be much wiser to run on a different night and build up an audience base. Dunphy's on-air admission that he likes recreational drugs proved negitive for his show. The Dunphy Show peaked at half the already declining viewership of The Late Late Show. The new show then steadily declined further, pulling in only 50,000 viewers more than watched the US show Judge Judy on the channel. After 15 shows The Dunphy Show was axed by TV3.
The most recent programme to rival the Late Late Show has come from within RTÉ yet again. First broadcast in October, 2004, Tubridy Tonight, presented by the young up and coming broadcaster, Ryan Tubridy, is based largely on the American style of chat show. Tubridy seems a lot more relaxed on screen than Kenny, and it has been said that the former would be much better suited to host the Late Late Show. Tubridy's show, which is now in its second run, overtook the Late Late Show in the ratings in March 2005, however, Kenny feels confident that the two shows can exist side by side, much like Kenny Live and the Late Late Show existed side by side for a decade.
Famous or infamous guests
Among the many guests on The Late Late Show over 40 years have been:
- Annie Murphy , mistress of disgraced Irish Catholic Bishop, Eamon Casey
- Bob Geldof, lead singer with the Boomtown Rats and founder of Live Aid
- Billy Connolly, Scottish comedian
- Bono, lead singer with U2
- Cathal Daly , retired Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh
- Cyril Cusack, famous Irish actor
- Dana, Ireland's first winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
- Viscount Linley, nephew of Queen Elizabeth II
- David Niven, actor
- Desmond Connell Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin
- Diana Dors
- Eamon Casey, subsequently disgraced Irish Catholic Bishop
- Elton John, singer and songwriter
- George Best, celebrated Northern Irish soccer player
- Jack Charlton, then Irish soccer manager
- Joanna Lumley, star of Absolutely Fabulous
- Liam Gallagher, lead singer with Oasis
- Mary McAleese, president of Ireland
- Mary Robinson, President of Ireland
- Micheál MacLiammoir, famous Irish actor
- Mickey Rooney, Irish-American actor
- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
- Noel Gallagher, from Oasis
- Padraig Flynn, politician (who was eccentric on the show)
- Patrick Duffy, US television actor and star of 'Dallas'
- Paul Brady, songwriter
- Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (who was forced to resign in the aftermath of his decision to sing on the show, hours after a bomb attack in Northern Ireland.)
- Peter O'Toole, actor
- Peter Sellers, actor
- Richard Branson, businessman
- Ronan Keating, singer
- Sarah, Duchess of York ex-wife of Prince Andrew, Duke of York
- Sinéad O'Connor, singer
Artists whose first Television Appearance was on the Late Late Show
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