We need to end our celebrity obsession before it’s too Late Late

Ireland's most sensitive man in Ireland's toughest job.

I have a confession to make.

I like Ryan Turbidy. I like him a lot.

He is a skilled broadcaster – sensitive, sympathetic, yet utterly unsuited to the Late Late Show.

The world’s longest-running talk show is in danger of running out of steam.

The Late Late is part of the Irish living room – which, as we all know, can be a loud, rowdy, contrary place.

This doesn’t happen on the Late Late Show. Not any more.

Ryan is too nice. Even when asking a hard question, his face bears an expression that says “this hurts me more than it hurts you”.

It’s an expression Gay Byrne never wore.

Part of the problem is, of course, the guests.

It’s hard to ask hard questions of people who have never done or said or stood for anything of substance.

Last night we had a girl from Galway who got a bit of stick on Twitter, some people dancing for Tescos, and three inane empty-headed hacks speculating about what the murderers of women may or may not have been thinking or doing at some point.

Niall Quinn was his usual sympathetic self, but for a man described as “Mother Teresa”, there are no hard questions to ask.

The interview with comedian Anne Gildea – currently being treated for breast cancer – was gripping television, but Turbidy interrupted uncomfortable silences at critical times.

Just as Gildea had composed herself to answer, Turbidy would interject to lighten the situation. That is not what was needed.

As a standup, Anne Gildea is in probably the toughest profession in showbusiness – she is more than capable of dealing with Tubs, his audience, and indeed cancer, and the best of luck to her in her recovery.

But ultimately the nub of the Late Late Show’s problem is our obsession with celebrities from A-list to Z-list.

The producers obviously have some reason for trotting out these nobodies – that reason is because we watch the likes of “Desperate Scousewives”, and some of us even take them seriously.

That’s not what I learned about making television. When I studied communications, the first question we were taught to ask when producing TV is “what story are we trying to tell?” Then you decide how to go about doing it, and indeed who should do it.

The reality TV celebrity trap is that their only story is themselves, and in 101 cases out of 100 it’s not that interesting.

What pains me – and I’ve made this known to the Late Late producers on Twitter – is that there are so many brilliant, fascinating, uplifting and tragic stories out there among the plain people of Ireland.

There are musicians and magicians and comedians struggling for a break that could do with the exposure far more than some C-lister whose ambition- despite the Twitter abuse- is to go on Big Brother.

There are businesses and volunteers and carers who go to outstanding lengths for their communities. We see them, fleetingly, on the Late Late, before the next washed-up, wrinkled has-been is trotted out.

The producers might do well to remember that what is often their biggest audience of the year is for the Toy Show, when there is nary a celebrity in sight- instead, the show is given over to children, in all their original, chaotic, comedic glory.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Ryan is the right man to do this job.

But I’d rather he turn his sympathetic ear to the stories of ordinary people than whatever talentless gobshite happens to be hawked around Montrose by some PR person during the week.