By Gráinne Ní Aodha (PA)
Patrick Kielty has said presenting RTE’s flagship Toy Show is a “massive honour”, as the theme of this year’s televised Christmas extravaganza was revealed to be the movie Elf.
The Co Down native said he was not nervous ahead of the Late Late Show special – a showcase of toys, talent and charitable donations – and said he was “pretty excited”.
Every year hundreds of children apply to appear on RTE’s Toy Show, which began in the 1970s advertising toys, but has become a collective appreciation for children’s wit and talent.
At a media event held days before the live show, Kielty said it was like “an Irish Thanksgiving”, and compared it to finding a place abroad to watch the All-Ireland final or a “decent pint”.
“Wherever you are in the world, you want to connect with people around this event,” he said.
The presenter said it was difficult to explain its draw, adding that “that’s the magic of the Toy Show, that’s why it is uniquely Irish and that’s what makes it so brilliant”.
Kielty became the host of RTE’s flagship late-night programme The Late Late Show in September, taking over from former star presenter Ryan Tubridy.
The decision followed a series of crises to hit Ireland’s public service broadcaster involving how it declares its top stars’ fees and perks, as well as financial and governance issues.
Tubridy, who was The Late Late Show’s presenter for 14 years, has wished Kielty well ahead of Friday night.
Asked if he hoped Tubridy and other former Late Late Show host Pat Kenny would be watching, and maybe even taking notes, Kielty said: “I wouldn’t be expecting any of those guys who’ve done such an amazing job on the show to be taking notes from me.
“I think, weirdly, all presenters can only be themselves – whether you’re hosting The Late Late Show or whether you’re hosting the Toy Show. And so for me, it’s about going out there and trying to be as much me as I can and see what happens.”
Kielty also said that he wished Tubridy well in his new role as host of Virgin Radio UK’s mid-morning show.
“I was delighted when I heard Ryan got that gig, I’ve been on Chris’s (Evans) show a load of times, and worked with Ryan at Radio 2, and I think he’s going to do a great job and genuinely wish him all the best.”
Kielty said he had not asked his wife, TV presenter Cat Deeley, for advice on the Toy Show, nor their two sons, aged five and seven, who will be watching from home.
“If I can win them over, I think I’m in a good spot,” he said.
As Deeley is thought to be one of the people in the running to become the next presenter of ITV’s This Morning show, and with Kielty presenting one of the most-watched programmes in Ireland, one media outlet has dubbed them a “TV power couple”.
“I was just thinking what a power couple we were over the weekend, when I was actually wiping dog poo off a football boot and when she was trying to sort out lunch after a playdate,” Kielty laughed.
“It really definitely felt like we were a power couple.”
He added: “All of these things are fun to write, aren’t they? So she’s pretty busy at the minute with lots of good stuff. She’s got her new show coming back in the States, she’s off to film that in December and then she’s there again in February. So yeah, it’s a nice time for us.”
He said it was a “pinch-me moment” to be presenting the Toy Show, but said whether he would be singing or dancing “remains to be seen”.
“When you’ve grown up and you’ve watched that show with your family, and you know the heritage of it, what it means to people here and what it means to Irish people around the world.
“So I’m planning to have fun. So let’s see if that plan comes true.”
He said the film Elf is “a big, big movie in our family, in our house” and said a few tears were likely on Friday as he is a “fairly emotional person”.
Asked by the PA news agency what stands out for him as the best moments of Toy Shows past, he said “when you’re at that amazing Santa Claus sweet spot”.
“So for us growing up as kids, that would have been Gay Byrne, it would have been Gay showing us toys that ‘Oh my god, we think we can get this’, and we’d write it down, ‘We’ll put that up the chimney and see what happens’.
“We were from a small village and this is before there was any internet shopping or big toy store, so a lot of the time the stuff didn’t turn up. And the stuff that did turn up was amazing, just a bit different from what Gay was showing.
“And so then you realise that that’s kind of not really what it’s about. I don’t remember half the stuff that turned up for Christmas. But I do remember sitting and watching the show with my mum, my dad and my brothers.
“So you maybe realise with hindsight that what the memories are is the most important thing.”
Host of The Late Late Show Patrick Kielty at the unveiling of the theme and set for The Late Late Toy Show, at the RTE studios