Host will be judged on his gaffes, not on his interviews
Published 08/01/2010 | 05:00
He will be remembered far more for the gaffes than any of his interviews.
It's a worrying sign for any TV personality if their salary is a bigger talking point than their shows. Jonathan Ross's £18m (€20m) deal with the BBC made him both its highest-paid star and, in the words of his Radio 2 colleague, Paul Gambaccini, an "icon of greed". But it's unfair to blame Ross for signing on the dotted line: it was the BBC that offered him the massive pay deal.
What you can blame Ross for is his unrivalled talent for planting his foot in it. During 13 years at the BBC, his gaffes were more memorable than his interviews.
In 2006, he asked David Cameron, "Did you or did you not have a **** thinking of Margaret Thatcher?"; in 2007 he quipped that he was worth "1,000 BBC journalists", just as jobs were being cut. But the coup de (dis) grace came when he and Russell Brand left obscene messages on Andrew Sachs's voicemail regarding Brand's relationship with Sachs's granddaughter, Georgina Baillie. After they were broadcast on Radio 2, 44,000 people complained. Ross was suspended.
Apologists talk of his "edginess". The truth is that Ross made an engaging successor to Barry Norman on BBC One's film show and was in his element at awards ceremonies and on panel shows. But as an interviewer, he was awful, either smothering guests in sycophancy or interrupting them to haul the conversation back to his favourite topic: himself.
The BBC once justified Ross's salary on the grounds that commercial rivals would pay even more. I doubt that is still the case. (© Daily Telegraph, London)