I watched the annual RTE Toy Show last Friday night. It was my Toy Show maiden voyage. In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to avoid this Christmas tradition. I only avoided it because we don’t have a TV, really. When a friend invited us to watch her TV, there was no excuse.
For those of you non-Irish readers, the RTE Toy Show’s nearest American equivalent would be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Most of the country’s houses will have it on while the cooking, organizing, table setting, etc is getting underway. Everyone knows what it is even if they have never actually watched the whole thing soup to nuts.
Most people in Ireland, especially those under the age of 15, watch the Toy Show every year. Both the Thanksgiving Day Parade and The Toy Show are happy reminders that Christmas season is upon us and it is only about shopping.
The Toy Show is a TV event that introduces the nation to the best toys of the moment as well as to some lucky children from around the country. Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade there are big song and dance numbers, adorable children, and too many chaotic moving parts to ensure that things will run 100% smoothly. This is why it is worth watching.
The Toy Show is hosted by the Late Late Show host, Ryan Tubridy. Everyone my age mourns the loss of Gay Byrne as host. As one of my more detail oriented friends pointed out Trubridy looks exactly like the Scarecrow and Byrne exactly like the Cowardly Lion. I don’t know where that metaphor is meant to go from here. It’s just a fact.
On Friday we cozied up on the couch with mulled wine to watch the whole thing. It is at once hilarious and embarrassing, sweet and offensive, in only the way a three-hour long broadcast with one man talking to at least 30 sugar-high racing children can be.
It was a bit of a surprise to have the show open with a stuffed animal that was “pregnant” (you could pull little ponies out of the big pony’s belly), and then move onto the “farm toys” and “kitchen toys”. There were little boy farmers and a little girl in the kitchen. Obviously.
Tubridy seemed to be running on fumes (and maybe something more potent) by the end of the show, having worn a total of four different Christmas jumpers as well as one full velvet Lumiére (from Beauty and the Beast, the theme of the evening, don’t ask anyone why no one knows) costume, complete with dancing flames.
I don’t think The Toy Show aims to put on a spectacle quite as grand as The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, the other American classic. I mean, a budget for camels, sheep, a mini ice rink, and a rake of Rockettes just isn’t in the budget at RTE and that is fine! Less poop to worry about.
It’s still a huge event. Tubridy did well to get out alive. I think that Irish people watch it now mainly to say “Ah, Jeez, it was so much better when I was a kid.” But I bet they didn’t get to drink mulled wine while watching it.