Not the Second Coming, just business as usual as Ross makes his ITV debut
Monday 05 September 2011
It was the chin that gave him away. Jonathan Ross, who since his departure from the BBC following the Sachsgate affair has been advertising his devil-may-care, unemployed status with flip-flops and a goatee, stepped on to the set fully shod and shorn of all facial hair.
Clearly, The Jonathan Ross Show was a serious bid to win over its host's once-devoted audience and claw back his status as the prime-time kingpin.
And did he succeed? Not quite. The ratings were respectable – 4.3m viewers tuned in for the equally cursed and blessed post-X-Factor slot, an improvement on his performance on his last series on BBC1, though perhaps not enough to make this The Great Event that ITV was hoping for.
That the format hadn't changed much points not so much to a lack of courage as the conservatism of the chat-show medium – one to which Ross, a man of no little intelligence or talent, remains bewilderingly wedded.
Granted, the décor was different: there was a large dose of Letterman in the old-school desk and background cityscape, an improvement to the dazzling pink and orange monstrosity provided by the BBC. Meanwhile the music, provided by the hip musician and producer du jour Mark Ronson, supplied further pizzaz.
But elsewhere, it was business as usual, not least with the audience, who yelped and whooped ecstatically at their host's every utterance, as if this were the Second Coming – which to Ross and ITV1, of course, it was.
There was also still a Green Room where the stars – Sarah Jessica Parker, Lewis Hamilton and Adele – had to wait their turn in front of continually rolling cameras waiting to pounce on their every unfortunate gurn. And there was still the inexplicably oversized sofa where interviewees perched, considerably closer to the ground than their interviewer, and were positively encouraged to spout PR-approved drivel.
This is where Ross continues to fall down. Did SJP watch the Royal Wedding? Does she like filming in New York? Does Lewis Hamilton ever let his missus take the wheel? Could anyone care less?
Sure, Ross managed to go off-piste with the odd risqué one-liner, though you imagine most viewers would gladly trade in the smut for some actual insight into the guests' lives.
It was a blessed relief when the final guest Adele arrived and steered the conversation into more interesting territory and revealed herself to be seemingly devoid of ambition.
Clearly, the same couldn't be said of her host.
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