The Late Late Toy Show will hold the country spellbound tonight as it opens on a Toy Story theme, but host Ryan Tubridy has said he will not be taking off anywhere any time soon.
Preparing to anchor his third Toy Show, Tubridy said yesterday he was looking forward to 2012 after a “rotten” 2011, but said he would still be in Ireland to front the ratings-topping show next year.
Looking quite at ease in one of his many festive geansaí, the Late Late Show host yesterday allowed the media a sneak preview of tonight’s big event, a programme that last year attracted 1.4 million viewers as children all over the country were allowed to stay up past their bedtimes to tune in.
The multi-coloured supersized set is ready: a mix-and-match affair, from giant Lego bricks and foot tall Lego men in hard hats, to a three-storey doll’s house and a space rocket.
Contributors to this year’s show include Jedward and X Factor’s Olly Murs and yesterday many children who will be involved in the production were busy fine tuning their performances. They were all there: Mr Potato Head, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Slinky Dog and the rest, played by children from Waterford, Dublin, Meath, Wicklow and elsewhere. No Woody though — that’s where Tubridy comes in.
“Who do I look most like, and don’t say Mr Potato Head... Woody, I’m obviously Woody,” he said, before adding that, unlike last year, he will not be lending his singing voice to proceedings this year.
The jumper is ready, a ‘Ryandeer’ Arctic effort from funkychristmasjumper.com that will be auctioned off afterwards with the proceeds going toward the fund for Alexandra Trotsenko, the artist who lost her fingers in an attack in Dublin two years ago.
The toys on show have also been affected by current events, the majority that will on display tonight costing under €70. Toy testers, including the Morris quadruplets from Kilkenny — Michael, Nicola, Mandy and Samantha — will give their verdicts.
“We do have a very serious eye on the recession,” the host said. “I couldn’t talk to Santa because he’s up to his beard in it but I did talk to some of the elves in Lapland and the word is they had to lay off a few elves so there isn’t as much going around toy-wise so the lists have to be a little bit shorter.
“The presents we’ll be showing are the ones the elves told me to show because they are easy to make and not that dear to put together.”
Nonetheless, he said he was feeling like “a giddy kid” on the eve of the biggest Late Late Show of the year, surrounded by “good little human beings”. Facing growing criticism over sliding ratings on his radio show the presenter — confident and relaxed on his previous Toy Show appearances — said he was looking forward to ending what was “an awful year” for the country.
Referring to radio listeners’ generosity at the plight of some vulnerable families he said “for every sadness there is a lot of goodness”, and he denied that such tales made him feel guilty about his own salary, instead turning the focus on his role as a public servant through his broadcasting work.
He will spend four days filling in BBC Radio 2 over Christmas but he said: “I will definitely be here next year.”
Contract negotiations with RTÉ begin in 2012 and he said he was confident of sticking around. “The buck stops with me,” he said of any problematic ratings, arguing that, unlike last year, “ratings are the furthest thing from my mind”.
Long term, he said he would be more inclined to do a Pat Kenny rather than a Gay Byrne when it came to the duration of his time in the Late Late Show hot seat, although there could be no definitive answer, just a look ahead towards a better year.
“I am very excited about 2012 — I think it’s going to be a good year for people,” he said, and so say all of us. Let the festive season begin.