If you have been getting horrible visions of James Cordon buzzing in and out of your mind over the last few weeks, youâve either left ITV1 on by mistake after a World Cup game, or youâve been contemplating the post-Ross, BBC light entertainment dilemma. If itâs the latter then itâs possible that Cordon has been shifting places with Frank Skinner, Graham Norton and Patrick Kielty too. For when BBC bosses are scratching around for a witty, comfortable presenter with a common touch and a surprising depth of knowledge where else might they look?
Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, for the most part, has been brilliant. But there are inevitably low points. They all have them. For every Mohammed Ali, there is a Meg Ryan. Jeremy Paxman is never going to be on the Christmas card list in Michael Howardâs household. And the only time Peaches Geldoff or Fearne Cotton would be welcome guests would be in the first chapter of an Agatha Christie novel. So here, in no particular order, are five of Jonathan Rossâs poorest interviews..
It is hardly fair to expect Jonathon Ross, late on Friday night, to behave as if he was presenting Countdown. Countdown is beamed almost exclusively into the living rooms of dozing grandfathers. And, letâs face it, grandfathers know now to avoid Jonathan Ross. But Rossâs remark to Gwyneth Paltrow in 2008 was the sort which might make Georgina Baillie herself blush.
âI would f*&k youâ? might be the go-to line for the late night Lotharios of Whitley Bay. But suggesting the same to the kind of genteel Oscar-winning actress who calls her daughter Apple is hardly likely to have the same effect. It is hard to imagine a conjugal encounter between Gwyneth Paltrow and husband Chris Martin which does not include a sympsium on the existence of God, a fleetingly joyless tryst involving a prophylactic made out of mung beans, and a long cry. So it is probably safe to assume she did not share JRâs sentiments. Nor did the BBC Trust. It was, they said, âoverly sexualâ?, âgratuitous and unnecessarily offensiveâ?.
There is always something deeply embarrassing when a politician tries to engage with popular culture. Whether it is William Hague wearing a baseball cap at the Notting Hill Carnival, Tony Blair proclaiming his lifelong love of Newcastle United, or Peter Mandelson pointing at a tub of mushy peas in a chip shop and asking whether he could have some of that guacamole, it is always a turd field. (But especially Hague in that baseball cap.)
In 2006 David Cameron inserted himself into that sad litany. The Royalty-posh new Tory leader backed himself to get a bit of street cred by turning up on Jonathan Ross and showing everyone just how chilled out he could be. Ross wasnât about to let him get away with it. (I mean, didnât Hague have any advisors?) Cameron wanted some political capital and Ross was determined to prevent it. By the end, neither man had done anything to enhance their reputations. (What about that time Hague claimed to be a 14-pint a day man? It was almost too embarrassing to bear.)
Ross asked Cameron whether he had âever had a wank thinking âMargaret Thatcherâ?â? Impotence clinics across the country rubbed their hands in glee.
Often in a relationship you have a clever one and a funny one. When that person is Katie Price on both counts, something is seriously wrong. Peter Andre is seriously wrong. And Price knew it.
When the pair went on Jonathan Ross in 2007 amidst widely reported rumours of an impending break-up, there was palpable fear in her eyes every time he spoke. It was like watching a social worker talk football with someone they thought was probably a racist. Andre was always very likely to say something unspeakably stupid and Price â as unlikely as this seems for someone with apparently no shame â was ashamed.
It was sad to watch. For, as much as the pair represent everything that is fatuous about contemporary popular culture, there is something endearing about Andreâs simian simplicity. As much as Priceâs sniping at Andre during the interview was uncomfortably nasty, there is some value about her almost savant honesty. And as much as they choose to live their lives in the public glare, watching them fall apart so publically was sad, nevertheless.
When he came on the show in 2010, Aaron Johnson was starring in a film co-written by Rossâs wife. This should have been the easiest of rides. Yet even had Ross asked him if heâd âthreatened to overrule himâ? 14 times, Johnson could hardly have been less comfortable. Every answer was a word; every word was a struggle; and every struggle felt like a geological age.
Yes, he is young. Yes, he was being asked about a relationship he is having with Sam Taylor Wood who, by some estimates, is 68 years older than him. And, yes, Johnson was so busy trying to look cool that he had frozen his brain into monosyllabacy. But he is so supposed to be a movie star. And movies stars should have charisma. As Kick-Ass, Johnson famously didnât have any superpowers. As Aaron Johnson, he has the power to make an interview seem like an orchestra of people scraping their nails down blackboards.
By any measure, Damon Albarnâs career is an astonishing success. Even before Gorillaz, he had created a band, in Blur, which became the motif for a whole generation who believed in hope and Britain and the end of slick haired bastards with pin-stripe Cerrutti suits and mobile phones the size of telephone boxes. But never once has Damon Albarn taken any pleasure in any of it. You see, Damon Albarn will never really be happy until he is able to take himself in his own arms and whisper sweet nothings into his own ear and then go back home and lie next to himself in his own bed listening to his own music, contemplating what he is going to do to his own body.
Until then he will be more serious than a love poem which has just been diagnosed with skin cancer. So when he came on Jonathan Ross with his Gorillaz partner, Jamie Hewlett, he spent the entire interview creating an atmosphere as comfortable as sunburn. Clearly he loathes Ross. But Damon Albarn might have had the decency to tell JR that Damon Albarn loathes anyone who isnât Damon Albarn.
After having a pop at any musician who wasnât Damon Albarn, Damon Albarn contemptuously asked Ross, âwhy donât you spend some of your millions making a programme about comic books?â? (A couple of years later Ross did.)
âWhy donât you go â¦â? Ross must have thought in reply. But, try as he might, thatâs the one thing Damon Albarn will never be able to do.