13 years, millions in pay – and one ruined set – as Ross signs off
In his rollercoaster career at the BBC, Jonathan Ross made it his personal mission to prick pomposity and court controversy. So it was perhaps fitting that, after a decade of trashing chatshow etiquette, he should bring down the curtain on his Beeb career by meting out the same treatment to his studio set.
The 49-year-old host, who is leaving the corporation for a "gap year" of writing comics before he joins ITV next autumn, ended the final edition of his Friday Night with Jonathan Ross – to be broadcast this evening – with a staged attack on the fixtures and fittings following his closing interview with kung fu film star Jackie Chan.
Although the karate-kicking assault was pre-planned, it is will be seen as a suitably symbolic send-off for the prime time iconoclast who managed to attract the ire of Gwyneth Paltrow, council house owners and Lord Tebbit – to name but a few – with questions that included asking David Cameron whether he had masturbated as a schoolboy while thinking about Margaret Thatcher.
Ross announced in January that he was ending his 13-year relationship with the BBC after long-running controversy over his most recent £6m-a-year pay deal and the outcry caused by explicit messages left by the broadcaster and comedian Russell Brand on the voicemail of Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, which resulted in 38,000 complaints. The episode plunged the BBC into an unlikely crisis, leading to the sacking of Brand and the suspension of Ross for three months after he made a comprehensive apology.
The final edition of the Friday night chat show, which has run for 10 years, saw Ross interview a stellar array of guests including David Beckham and Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke, before telling the audience that he was "grateful, lucky and honoured" to have worked at the corporation.
Thanking all the guests that have appeared on the show by saying "at least 95 per cent of them were great", Ross said: "Everyone here at the BBC has always been terrific. The experience I've had here has been a blessed one. I've never come in here feeling anything other than grateful, lucky and honoured. So thank you."
Ross, who appeared as a child in a 1970s Rice Krispies advert, but made his name on Channel 4 at the end of the 1980s, carved out a niche as a deliberate contrast to more reverential chat show hosts by peppering his guests with toe-curling questions, often sexual in nature.
His on-screen statement to Paltrow that he "would fuck her" lead to censure by the BBC Trust, which criticised the decision by the corporation to broadcast the interview and described the comments as "gratuitous and unnecessarily offensive". Other controversies included his remark to chef Jamie Oliver that people who live in council houses should be banned from giving birth and telling an audience of journalists that his £18m contract meant he was worth "1,000 BBC journalists" shortly after the corporation had announced plans for more than 2,000 job cuts.
Ross has said he will spend the next 12 months indulging his passion for comics and pursuing other projects before he starts a new £1m contract with ITV to present a new chat show.
In the meantime, the famously fop-haired broadcaster is likely to find his shoes filled by Graham Norton, who has already been confirmed as the replacement for Ross's Radio 2 show. Norton's chat show, currently broadcast on Monday nights, is expected to move to Fridays in October as part of his £4m, two-year deal with the corporation.
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