COMMENT: With Piers Morgan's appearance, The Late Late Show still refuses to be a force for good
On Friday evening, The Late Late Show will enter its 56th year.
I'm starting to wonder how much longer we'll have to put up with it.
Ireland's premier chat show is a gruelling watch that benefits immensely from a captive audience of deeply traditional, rural, Irish households with shaky broadband and little else to do on Friday night.
Jokes about the show are almost as old as the show itself. That they pick their guests by having a scan around the Montrose canteen. Charlie Bird, Mario Rosenstock, Oliver Callan and various Fair City actors are recurring characters.
But could 2018 be the year it all turns around? As it turns out: No.
This Friday, Ryan Tubridy will be joined by Piers Morgan. According to the RTÉ press release, here's what they'll be talking about:
'The Good Morning Britain presenter will be telling Ryan why the Irish should be welcoming President Trump when he visits in November and why he continues to support him despite his unpopularity on this side of the Atlantic.
'He’ll also be telling viewers why he, as an avowed Remainer, still believes that the British should Brexit, and the Irish and the EU need to accept the UK voters' decision.'
— RTÉ One (@RTEOne) September 6, 2018
First things first. Piers Morgan, as a person, is a load of nonsense. He is the dictionary definition of failing up. He has no business being listened to for any reason whatsoever, besides on the subject of how best to land on your feet.
In 2004, he was sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror after he published doctored photos on the front page. After that, he became a judge on Britain's Got Talent.
He then took over Larry King's duties at CNN - where King had held together an iconic interview show for 25 years - and Morgan's version of the show got cancelled after three years.
Morgan now co-hosts Good Morning Britain on ITV, and is best known for short-viral clips of him fighting with his own guests. It does not match BBC Breakfast, its nearest competitor, for ratings.
He's not an expert in anything, yet his opinion is given credibility.
For his media persona alone, he has been invited on to Irish television to talk about why we should welcome Donald Trump.
Presumably less interested in exploring the prevailing perspective, that we, eh, shouldn't welcome Donald Trump, RTÉ has opted to broadcast an opinion that will get as many people as possible riled up.
Morgan's second selling point is to tell us why Brexit should happen, even though he believes it's a bad idea. Which sounds every bit as valuable as someone contradicting themselves in order to make sure their opinion is as disagreeable as it can possibly sound. Purely for air time.
In recent times, Morgan's public persona has been predicated on stoking hatred along the most gruesome lines. He has targeted the contestants of Love Island for their perceived stupidity (and only succeeded in humiliating himself for not understanding an incredibly basic mathematical principle). Before England's World Cup campaign, he vilified Raheem Sterling for having a tattoo. Most recently, he has lashed out at a plus-sized model for being plus-sized.
What's the point of this move? What's the justification? What's the value? Who benefits from this?
The Late Late Show can afford to fly people in. Why not somebody who's been banned from America under Trump's Muslim Ban? Why not shooting victims who've been traumatised by Trump's flippant support for the 2nd Amendment? Why not a journalist from the press that Trump is so eager to see shut down? Why not mothers and fathers who've been separated from their children at the border?
Why one of the very few public figures who, without being able to give any good reason, still supports this absolute shambles of a president?
Why not somebody who can have a real, genuine conversation about whether or not Ireland should welcome this person?
Someone who can actually speak fluently on what Donald Trump has done, and what he stands for. Someone whose relationship to the situation is stronger than once having presented Trump with an Arsenal jersey during an interview for ITV.
The sad answer is that The Late Late Show just cannot help itself.
The last ardent Trump supporter who featured on the show, this venomous thing, closed her appearance with this crackingly insightful message: "From a proud Brexiteer, to all the Americans who just voted for Donald Trump, thank you, go go go, make America great again."
"Go go go".
It was a waste of everybody's time, and while most of us can see people like Hopkins for the idiot that she is, that's no consolation. It still doesn't help society for some morons to be persuaded to a violent line of thinking while the rest of us just have to put our fingers in our ears and resign ourselves to only ever having meaningful conversations in private.
Morgan has far more between his ears than Katie Hopkins, but we're fooling nobody if we pretend that Piers Morgan is being asked to sit opposite Tubridy in the hopes that he will give an honest, thoughtful defence of Donald Trump.
Morgan will do what Morgan does. He'll lick Trump's boots, he'll make silly jokes about the atrocities his friend has committed, he'll dance around anything the host presses him on because he know he's already won just by securing his 15 minutes.
And does Morgan expect a real interview from Tubridy? Or the kind of snide, snarling third degree that Morgan gives his own guests for, say, being overweight?
Take a look at the below and come to your own conclusions.
UPDATE: I'm appearing live on @RTELateLateShow tomorrow night. Last time, I ended up in a Dublin den of iniquity at 2am with Ryan Tubridy, swigging gallons of Guinness. I fully intend doing the same this time... pic.twitter.com/SUP5DJlzRT
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 6, 2018
There is no interest here in elevating the minds of the viewers. It's solely about getting under their skin, or enflaming their worst instincts.
What Morgan's appearance on The Late Late Show really proves is that Ireland is not only lacking an institution that can platform intelligent, thoughtful discussion on the issues of the day. It's that those with the resources to provide one actually glory in the opposite.
Ahead of the Repeal the Eighth referendum, RTÉ proved with a flourish that it is woefully deficient at facilitating a measured conversation on something important. Its debate on Claire Byrne Live received no fewer than 1,277 complaints.
Tubridy himself undercut his own chops as an interviewer earlier this year when he revealed that he doesn't expect his guests to answer anything that they haven't agreed to answer before the interview began – which suggests that interviews on The Late Late Show are little more than PR pitstops.
Whether by design or by regulation, its programmes regularly struggle to conduct discussions that match the gravity of their subject. That's exactly what we can expect on Friday night.
Society can benefit from broadcasting the kind of perspectives that allow us all to have a more enlightened conversation. More facts. More empathy. More understanding. The Late Late Show is showing, once again, that it has no interest in this aim. It will, once again, prioritise incendiary blowhards over anyone with anything real to say.
Piers Morgan will do very nicely.