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Ryan Tubridy’s new radio show review: Buttery charm, frothy good humour and A-list interviews on Virgin Radio UK debut

Radio review: While the midmorning show represents a fresh start for the former RTÉ presenter, his shtick remains largely the same

As he presents his first show for Virgin Radio UK from London, Ryan Tubridy repeatedly reaches for an obvious metaphor. “I’m the new boy in the class,” he says, by way of expressing his excitement about his inaugural programme on the Rupert Murdoch-owned station. But while the midmorning show represents a fresh start for the former RTÉ presenter, his shtick remains largely the same. “I’m not going changing,” he reassures one texter. Meet the new Tubs, same as the old Tubs.

For one thing, there’s clearly a lot of his old classmates tuning in, as Tubridy spends an inordinate amount of airtime reading out texts from Irish listeners welcoming him back on air. In a way this is unsurprising, given the new show is also broadcast in Ireland on Dublin’s Q102, Cork’s 96FM, Limerick’s Live 95, and LMFM in counties Louth and Meath, but it doesn’t quite represent the clean break promised by the presenter’s clarion call of “New day, new show, new beginning, new year”.

The disproportionate influx of Irish messages notwithstanding, Tubridy is conscious of his new demographic, introducing himself to his UK audience with a potted, not to mention selective, biography. He runs through his time on The Late Late Show and his 20 years on Irish radio, without mentioning the contentious circumstances that brought him to a London studio in the first place. “I cannot wait to say goodbye to 2023,” is the closest he gets to acknowledging the payments controversy that ultimately saw him exit RTÉ last August while the network that fostered his career plunged ever further into existential crisis.

Similarly, his tantalising invitation to ask him anything (“so long as it’s legal and clean and fair”) is a cue for new station colleagues such as Graham Norton and Jeremy Kyle to send voice messages inquiring about his favourite childhood toys or his pre-show rituals, rather than a prompt to dig deeper into secret top-ups to his RTÉ salary.


In fairness, British listeners will have little interest in such matters, while those in Ireland probably have had their fill of the subject. What they hear instead is Tubridy at his most buoyant, all buttery charm and frothy good humour. “I woke up this morning with a smile on my face, saying ‘I cannot wait to go to work’,” the host gushes as he opens the show. And sure enough, over the next three hours, his mood never flags.

True, much of the airtime is taken up with a soundtrack of reliably mainstream oldies from Elton John and Lionel Richie to Travis and U2. But Tubridy still manages to highlight all his signature themes. Over the course of proceedings, he namechecks such familiar reference points as his love of books, his taste for Guinness, his interest in the Kennedys, his beloved Co Galway and, of course, his obsession with the Beatles: as he delightedly – and repeatedly – informs us, he now lives near the famous zebra crossing featured on the cover of the band’s album Abbey Road. All this certainly gives Tubridy’s new audience a flavour of what to expect, though he may want to expand his range of topics if he’s to fill 15 hours of radio a week in a market as competitive and unforgiving as the UK.

On the credit side, Tubridy delivers a coup by interviewing actor Russell Crowe, who’s at home in Australia at a dinner party when he talks to the host. It’s a suitably flighty conversation, with Crowe in swaggering mate mode as he congratulates Tubridy on “the losing of your virginity or the gaining of your Virgin job”, before recalling “getting smashed off our heads on tequila”. Despite their friendship, Tubridy doesn’t always sound entirely at ease, perhaps spooked by Crowe’s faux-irritation at being warned not to swear by a researcher. But the end result is an irreverent A-list encounter that undeniably lays down a marker.

The challenge, as ever, is how to maintain momentum in the coming months. Radio is at its core an intensely local medium, so as the self-proclaimed new boy, Tubridy needs to work up a rapport with his UK audience, rather than rely on his old Irish fans. (It’s perhaps telling that he doesn’t mention his previous brief stints on BBC Radio 2.) The music-heavy format of his new show means that, on the face of things, the host lacks the human interest items and open-ended monologues of his RTÉ Radio 1 where he could show off his more serious-minded side. But given the head boy earnestness that could accompany such items, this may be no bad thing in building a base.

Equally, Tubridy is notably sparky when chatting to Cecily, his one caller from the British public, sounding overjoyed when she chooses the Rolling Stones as the show’s first “tea break banger”. It may be that Tubridy’s path to success in the UK lies as a twinkly talker, dispensing self-deprecating wit, celeb chat and trademark factual nuggets amid an unthreatening pop soundtrack: a kind of Terry Wogan tribute act, though Tubridy has a long way to travel if he’s to become as treasured a fixture in British life as the late, great Wogan. How well a more UK-oriented show might play on Irish radio stations remains to be seen – there are already anomalies, as when Tubridy cues up his Virgin Radio colleague Jayne Middlemiss, who is absent from the airwaves here – but for the moment, those who missed the host’s breezy patter will probably be happy enough.

All in all, it’s a decent first day for Tubridy. But it’s the end-of-term grades that will matter most.