Money, Billie, fame - where did it all go wrong?

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The Independent Online

Chris Evans' first venture into national broadcasting was a short-lived Radio 1 Sunday lunchtime programme called Too Much Gravy. "Gravy" is, according to Chambers Dictionary, "money, profit or pleasure, unexpected or in excess of what one might expect (colloq)". Perhaps Too Much Gravy would not be a bad title for his biography.

Evans at his best is an outstandingly talented broadcaster ­ sharp-witted, funny, unpredictable, charming. It would not be going too far to call him a genius, as long as it is understood that the term does not imply any significant degree of self-restraint, decency or general usefulness. But it was central to his appeal that he did not seem to know this.

During his time on The Big Breakfast, and in the early days of his Radio 1 breakfast show, his blatant egoism was undercut by the urgency of his need to hold on to the audience's attention and affection ­ although he would frequently put down members of the public who phoned in, he usually managed to do it in a way that made them feel they had shared the joke.

It is tempting to suggest that at heart he was still a cheeky schoolboy. But that is probably just an illusion fostered by the geeky, thick-framed glasses, the spiky ginger hair and the slightly prominent front teeth. At any rate, he always had a boyish air of uncertainty, as if he was surprised and pleased to be getting away with all this ­ all the attention, money, and attractive blondes, and just for making stupid jokes.

When he returned to Radio 1 on a multimillion-pound contract, he made a big joke of showing off his fabulous wealth. But within a short while, the ironic edge had worn off. Now, he was wearing more fashionable glasses, with less obvious frames.

On television, TFI Friday became a vehicle for showing off his satisfaction with his life; it was assumed that viewers would be as interested in him as they were in the celebrities he interviewed ­ after all, wasn't he in the tabloids just as much as any of them?

The demands for more time off from the BBC, the no-shows, the bragging about his nights out drinking with the stars, were characteristic not of a cheeky schoolboy so much as a sullen teenager; the impudence had become more of a swagger.

When he started the Radio 1 breakfast show, I was delighted; when he finished, I didn't mind a bit. Now he has parted from Virgin, I couldn't care less.

Meanwhile, Evans may not have a career, but he has money, a pop-starlet wife, and constant media attention: too much gravy?

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