Late Late Show needs an odd couple pairing as hosts: Here’s my four options

So, if the Late Late is to survive and even thrive, some thinking outside the box needs to be done.
Late Late Show needs an odd couple pairing as hosts: Here’s my four options

Cork native Brendan O'Connor would be a god fit for the Late Late Show says John Dolan, if he was paired up with Jennifer Zamparilli. Picture: Bríd O'Donovan

THE problem with finding a new host of The Late Late Show is that, frankly, it’s an impossible job.

For a start, it isn’t, in truth, one job at all - it’s two, each with very different qualities and skills.

Asking anyone to host The Late Late is a bit like asking a trapeze artist at a circus to stand in for the clowns and make everyone laugh, or asking a plumber to knock you up a 5-star dinner in a restaurant.

The two roles are not necessarily mutually exclusive - but they are vanishingly rare twin traits to find in one person.

As the host of the world’s longest-running chat show, you are expected to be outstanding in two distinct areas - as a serious and forensic, hard-hitting journalist, and also as an amiable, jocular, and chatty light entertainer. Ice and fire.

It demands two separate skill-sets that are as rare to find in one person as... well, a brilliant trapeze artist who is also a brilliant clown.

I would argue that Gay Byrne was very good in both the required areas, without being outstanding in either.

His successor Pat Kenny was brilliant as the hard-hitting inquisitor, not so natural when shooting the breeze with Danish model Brigitte Nielsen.

Ryan Tubridy is the opposite - master of the Toy Show gig, but hard to take seriously when grilling politicians.

Its actually grossly unfair to expect any of the professional broadcasters who have hosted the Late Late to be outstanding at both these genres, and insulting to have to keep pointing out their deficiences when they are so good at what they do.

It’s a bit like slagging off Michael Parkinson - one of the finest TV interviewers ever - for the fact he lacked warmth and a lighter touch. Or slating Graham Norton because he wouldn’t be much cop at talking macro-economics with Rishi Sunak.

Both Parky and Norton knew what their shows were - and they matched their style.

With the Late Late host, on the other hand, the audience demands that he or she be all things to all people, to blend both styles of interview more than once in one evening - and that’s nigh on an impossible ask.

As soon as Tubridy announced the other day that he was bowing out as the show’s host in May, the debate began as to who would fill his shoes - and every contender fell into one of the camps required, but none fell into both.

A few siren voices have wondered aloud if this was a good time to call it a day for a show that has been in gradual decline for decades.

It certainly strikes me as the best option - RTÉ could then invent a new Friday show with a different name and consign the Late Late to history, and to ever receding clips on Reeling In The Years. No longer would the burden of presenting it land squarely and unfairly on one pair of shoulders.

But that is unlikely to happen, given the financial straits at RTÉ - they will hardly want to kill off the goose that lays a golden egg of advertising every Friday for three seasons of the year.

So, the race to find a new ringmaster for the circus has begun, and, one by one, we mentally picture them in the hot seat, and then, one by one, mentally eliminate each of them as unsuitable.

Let’s have a look at some of the prime candidates:

Claire Byrne? Too serious. Angela Scanlan? Not serious enough.

Katie Hannon? Too serious. Tommy Ternan? Not serious enough.

And so it goes on...

You have to pity poor aul Ray D’Arcy at this juncture. The second highest-paid presenter at RTÉ, we’re told, and he isn’t even viewed as a serious candidate for its top job among pundits

Of all the possible candidates, the one who would strike the best balance between fire and ice would be Miriam O’Callaghan. She would do a good job with The Late Late Show, but I’m not convinced even she would arrest its decline.

So, if the Late Late is to survive and even thrive, some thinking outside the box needs to be done.

 And I reached the conclusion that the show actually needs more than one host - it needs two together. The Ant and Dec of RTÉ-land, in effect. Or a Maura and Dáithí, who do such a good job on Irish daytime TV.

When I began to consider some suitable double acts from the lists of hosting contenders, only then did I begin to see some really deserving successors to Byrne, Kenny, and Tubridy.

Two people would be able to combine those ice and fire traits that are required on a show that can travel from the housing crisis, to a reality star, and onto a heartbreaking human interest story, all in a half-hour segment.

It would also need to be two people who would form a dynamic when they appeared together on screen.

Corkman Marty Morrissey.
Corkman Marty Morrissey.

Do you know who I came up with? Sarah McInerney and Marty Morrissey. Or Brendan O’Connor and Jennifer Zamparilli.

Diligent readers will have noticed I chose two of our own here - Morrissey is a Mallow man, and O’Connor is from Bishopstown. Any why not?!

Both men have carved out their own niches at RTÉ for different reasons, and their stock is rising.

McInerney, from Galway, is the new kid on the block at RTÉ, but has made a great impression on the organisation and with her audiences on RTÉ’s main commute-time radio programme, Drivetime, and as a co-presenter of RTÉ’s flagship current affairs TV programme, Prime Time.

 Jennifer Zamparelli. Photograph Moya Nolan
Jennifer Zamparelli. Photograph Moya Nolan

Dubliner Zamparelli does funny and light very well and has excelled as co-host of Dancing With The Stars.

Paired up with the two Cork fellas, they might just make a success of The Late Late Show.

Oh, and one more thing... please, please do away with the annual country music special. That’s non-negotiable!

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