Some manipulation for everyone in the 'Tubridy' audience
RADIO:As the host of The Late Late Show, Ryan Tubridy is well acquainted with the programme’s freebie-touting mantra of “there’s one for everyone in the audience”, which has helped ensure the franchise’s durability, at least until he took over as presenter.
So, given the flatlining listenership figures for his radio show (Tubridy, 2FM, weekdays), it was probably inevitable that he would try to replicate this crowd-pleasing formula on the wireless at some stage. Judging by recent editions, that time has come.
This week Tubridy seemed to reward every caller with a gift of the corporate-sponsored variety, no matter how inane the subject – seasonal tins of biscuits was one such striking topic – as smartphones were regularly given away, their commercial provenance loudly proclaimed in the process.
But these were stocking fillers compared with the big prize around which Tubridy has been building his show of late. Funded by a well-known Irish fast-food chain, the Bring Them Home campaign involved people recounting the stories of family absent from festivities because of emigration, in the hope of winning flights back.
On Wednesday Tubridy revelled in the apparent success of this promotion. “It’s been the most joyous radio to be involved with,” he said, reeling off the names of reunited relatives to the strains of Mike Oldfield’s In Dulci Jubilo.
Tubridy then spoke to Josephine, whose husband of 23 years, Gary, had been working in Melbourne for nine months. She recalled her courtship, her close bond with Gary and the economic circumstances that had forced him to emigrate. As she countenanced Christmas without Gary, her voice trembled. With Tubridy lamenting that all the flights had been given away, her anguish seemed to have yielded nothing but voyeuristic titillation.
“But wait,” Tubridy then said. “I’ve been handed a piece of paper just this minute, and it’s an electronic ticket,” he continued, to the surprise of no one except his clearly overwhelmed caller. “Your husband is in the air as we speak.” Cue tears of joy. “My children will never eat in McDonald’s again,” proclaimed a grateful Josephine, delivering the kind of heartfelt endorsement that no ad can yield.
Whether the campaign pays off so handsomely for Tubridy is another matter. On one level this was commercially powered, emotionally manipulative radio writ large, right down to the last-minute insistence with Josephine that there was, metaphorically, no room at the inn.
But it also allowed Tubridy to show off his gift for cosy empathy while providing a joyful denouement that was almost impossible to resist, even if the emotional impact had been calibrated with the subtlety of a Hallmark card. Tubridy’s on-air warmth is unlikely to give his ratings the necessary fillip, however. His persona requires more flashes of steel and shards of controversy for him to triumph in the midmorning bear pit.