Ross replaces Norman. And why not?

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The Independent Online
BARRY NORMAN had a leather armchair. Jonathan Ross, unveiled by the BBC yesterday as its chief film reviewer's successor, gets a black sofa. And why not?

The former presenter of The Last Resort has beaten off a strong challenge from Mariella Frostrup, who presented The Little Picture Show on ITV, to land what almost everyone considers the best job in television. The new series, Film 99, begins next spring.

The final decision was made by Peter Salmon, controller of BBC1, after watching pilot shows featuring Mr Ross and Ms Frostrup in a clash of vocal idiosyncrasies - the former's difficulty with the letter "R" against the latter's cigarette assisted huskiness.

It is understood approaches were also made to Johnny Vaughan, presenter of Channel 4's Big Breakfast and sometime celebrity interviewer, but they foundered after negotiations with his employer, Planet 24.

"It's a fantastically exciting way of entering the new year," Ross said yesterday, "knowing that a large part of my week will involve me sitting on my backside watching movies."

His appointment concludes a three-year search by the BBC for ways to refresh the film show. The corporation was happy to let Norman, who had spent 26 years in the job, leave gracefully. The opportunity finally presented itself in July when he left for a lucrative contract with the satellite television broadcaster Sky.

As well as hiring a new presenter and breaking up the uniformity of the old format with more studio interviews, Mr Salmon is believed to be to looking at an earlier slot to help to broaden appeal.

At 38, Ross is practically an elder statesman of light entertainment. After the ground-breaking The Last Resort, made by his production company Channel X, Ross went on to present Tonight With Jonathan Ross, Jonathan Ross Presents and Saturday Zoo. He even sat in for Terry Wogan on the veteran broadcaster's peak-time BBC1 chat-show and is seen once a year gamely attempting to revive the flagging Comedy Awards.