Piers smooths the way for 'gauche' Gordon

Piers Morgan's Life Stories, ITV1

Was it spin? It certainly was in one sense, with both interviewer and interviewee having a shared interest in presenting their encounter on Life Stories as an inquisitorial ordeal.

"He does ask pretty direct questions", said the Prime Minister – in a brief pre-programme sting – and Piers Morgan assured us that nothing would be off limits. "I suppose I'm quite nervous", added Gordon, as if it was Paxman or Humphrys in the seat opposite, rather than a long-service name-dropper with all the forensic cutting edge of Cilla Black. But if he was, it certainly didn't show. He jovially parried the one-word characterisations that Morgan flicked at him by way of a pre-match warm-up. Grumpy? "No, determined and strong-willed". Knackered? "I've got very young children". Plonker? "Made mistakes and done stupid things?... Yes". He chuckled and the audience chuckled with him.

The first film package might have marked a change in the weather, had it actually featured any real assaults. In fact the worst the PM got was "socially gauche" from Andrew Neil and then a lot of those criticisms that are actually praise in disguise: "He is not really built for the modern telegenic 24-hour media", said Andrew Pierce. "He's always at his best when he's most authentically himself," summed up Tony Blair.

All in all it had the feel of a party political broadcast sophisticated enough to know that a few home truths will season the adulation perfectly. "What do you feel when you hear all those people being so rude?" Morgan asked, astonishingly. If that was rude, flattering would probably have made the audience throw up.

Morgan's battering was relentless. The Prime Minister had been "super-clever" as a schoolboy, "Mick Jaggeresque" at university, positively shagtastic in the bedroom. No sooner had Gordon modestly parried one laudatory remark than another one landed somewhere else. And then, lest that cloy, we broke for a moment of seriousness – as Morgan asked about the death of his daughter. Brown's obvious emotion in answering was moving – a matter of feeling half-mastered rather than exploited. After which there was time for a bizarrely extended cross-examination about the exact nature of the Prime Minister's proposal to his wife ("Did you go down on one knee") and a last below-the-belt blow from Morgan: "The one thing we can definitely say is that you're not boring".

As it ended the audience cheered and hooted as if the Prime Minister had just won the Dancing On Ice Skate-Off. I suspect they were cheering even louder at Labour Party Headquarters.