First, a question. Can you name the four regular presenters of The Late Late Show? Four? I hear you ask. Well of course there was Gay, then Pat, then Ryan. But who remembers the man that sat into the hot seat back in 1964 when Mr Byrne had alternative working commitments with the BBC? Answer, Frank Hall, and the man who would become famous for the satirical Pictorial Weekly saw out the entire season of that year’s Late Late Show, before Gay returned to full-time duties with RTE.
Gay Byrne presented The Late Late Show from its inaugural broadcast on July 6, 1962, for most of 37 years, until he stepped down in 1999, when he was replaced by Pat Kenny.
Prior to The Late Late Gay presented a gameshow called Jackpot with Terry Wogan filling his vacated position. In those almost four decades of broadcasting, The Late Late Show established itself as RTE’s flagship programme and today remains the longest running chat show, by the same broadcaster, in the world.
The format was originally conceived as a summer schedule filler for the fledgling Teilifis Eireann, to run over 13 weeks, on Saturday nights. However, such was its instant popularity, it quickly evolved into the approximately two-hour entertainment show that we still recognise today.
The theme music to the original show was the instrumental section to the Chris Andrews’ 1965 hit “To Whom It Concerns”, while Nat King Cole’s “The Late Late Show” played over the closing credits (a song which appeared on Cole’s 1959 album “Big Band Cole”. During Pat Kenny’s tenure the musical arrangements were changed, however, when Ryan Tubridy took up the reins in 2009, he reintroduced “To Whom It Concerns” as the show’s theme tune.
The Late Late Show was first broadcast in colour in 1976. In the early days it was aired from Studio One in Donnybrook but moved to the more spacious Studio Four in 1995.
There have been a number of guest presenters including regular panelist, Ted Bonner, who stepped in for a seriously ill Byrne in the 1960s, while the late Gerry Ryan replaced Pat Kenny for one night when Pat’s mother passed away, in October, 2008.