"Morning all. Am recording the first of my new chat shows today," Jonathan Ross tweeted to his 1.2 million followers a couple of days ago. "Am surprisingly nervous. Hope that bodes well."
He wasn't the only one harbouring such hopes. A year after his tearful departure from the BBC, Ross is back; same-ish hair, similar suit, different desk, but identical format, only on a channel – ITV – that he recently claimed, "never felt right for me; too blatantly commercial". He has descended into its commercial apex, too, Saturday night. And last night was the curtain raiser on this new era of JR, a solid lineup of pop star, racing car driver and leggy actress.
These have been strange times for the deposed national treasure, arguably the most gifted presenter of his generation, but also, post-Sachsgate, the most vilified. A crude message left on the answerphone of a venerable comedy actor in 2008 prompted a furious reaction, causing co-conspirator Russell Brand to flee to Hollywood, and Ross to step down from his shows on both BBC1 and Radio 2.
His on-screen return now was anticipated for perhaps all the wrong reasons. We tuned in to see whether Ross 2.0 was still worth it (his ITV salary is undisclosed, but is surely comparable to his Beeb package of £6m). His incorrigibility had, after all, imploded by the end of his BBC tenure, and he spent much of his final series ogling his female guests, suggesting to Gwyneth Paltrow: "I would fuck you." The BBC Trust ruled the quip "unnecessarily offensive", though Paltrow seemed oddly taken by the idea.
Those first-night nerves were nowhere in evidence as he greeted his first guest, Sarah Jessica Parker, and quickly fell into old habits, lavishing praise while inquiring of her sexual habits, and if Lewis Hamilton proved himself a better driver than he is chat show guest, Adele ably enlivened the last quarter hour. A global singingsuperstar she may be, but she remains an earthy Tottenham girl at heart.
"You've got to behave," she warned him at one point. He didn't, of course, but the 50-year-old knew precisely what he was doing. He made a joke about Lord Sugar's scrotum, and boasted: "I've learnt nothing!"
But then this is a relief. You don't tune in to Jonathan Ross expecting Adrian Chiles, do you?
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