Get the slippers out, get the jamies in the dryer and your favourite mug washed. Pop on the kettle and light the fire. Let the kids stay up after 9.30apm, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the Late Late Toy Show.
Mixed Blessings - Kevin Blessing
There are few things about being Irish that are as magical and positive as this annual homage to the festive season.
We all remember sitting around the fire, being allowed one item out of the selection box, being in our dressing gowns from about five in the evening and watching the Owl on the Late Late Show intro with great excitement.
Those lucky lucky kids who used to get to test and trial the toys. I was so jealous. They always seemed to be well heeled and spoken kids from south county Dublin, not snotty nosed kids like me at the time from Leitrim.
It was a childhood dream of mine to be one of the ‘Toy Testers’ for the Late Late Toy Show. In fact I think I might have even told Mrs Brennan, my second class teacher in St Patrick’s National School at the time, that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. While I may not have made my Late Late Show wish, I still love the magic it inspires among both young and old.
Across the world, the Irish will be tuning in. My little niece, Laoise, in Australia has been watching the Late Late Toy show every year and this year for the first time her newly born baby brother, Tommy, will no doubt be cradled by his mum in front of the telly during the show. The Toy Show tradition is strong in the Blessing household from myself and my parents right down to all the grandchildren.
You may not love Ryan Tubridy, but I don’t think anyone can argue that the man has a gift for this show in particular. This is the one time of the year when he really shines. Tubs has a natural and easy way with kids compared to his predecessor Pat Kenny, I think, who was about as awkward looking around cubs as a Fine Gael Politician at an anti Irish Water protest.
But it is undoubtedly the kids that are the stars of the show and what makes it special every year. They say in show business that you should never work with kids or animals, because they are unpredictable. But that would be right, which adds to the magic of the Toy Show.
You never know when little Dessie riding his miniature John Deere tractor is going to go off script and swerve into a camera or the audience perhaps. Or little Mary singing solo that can go horribly terribly wrong, but no one minds and everyone loves her as she has just entertained the nation.
And then there are the toys. Yes the star attraction aside from the kids. And the hilarious bit is watching the presenter try and figure out what’s the point of the toy in question. In fairness that was mainly Pat Kenny. I used to want to scream at the TV, “It’s a toy Pat, it doesn’t need to have a point”.
Each year, RTE, in keeping with some sense of what kids ‘should’ be playing with trot out the wooden toys made by some charity organisation and the obligatory book procession.
I’m not sure if its some sort of public service broadcasting message or what but I know most of my nieces and nephews would chuck a book at me if I tried to give it to them as a Christmas present. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m just saying that’s the way kids are these days, they are digital, they are online.
Kids nowadays would rather play Mine Craft or some other virtual reality game on an Ipad or smartphone than actually build Lego blocks or play Subbuteo table soccer. Fortunately that doesn’t make very good TV so the producers of the programme are forced to get a selection of Wendy Houses, and ride on motorised scooters, action figures and dolls and a variety of things that primarily look good on TV.
Many parents will be under pressure this Christmas and could probably do without a three hour toy parade that will only force them to try and deliver a great Christmas for their kids.
But of all the things we can cut back on, Christmas does not appear to be one of them, with a recent survey stating that the average household spends up on fourteen hundred euro during the festive season.
The Toy Show has become an institution in Irish homes for decades now, even though it has come under pressure from competitors in recent years, however it is fair to say that it holds much nostalgia for all of the children in us.
I was recently talking to a 15 year old fella in on work placement with us at the station; like most 15 year olds, he was a little quiet, a bit shy and very afraid of being too opinionated about anything.
Nevertheless when I joked with him about if he would be watching the Toy Show or not, he was unequivical. “Of course I’ll watch the Toy show, sure that’s the real start of Christmas and we all love Christmas”.