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A golden circle waves off Wossy

After a decade dominating television, Jonathan Ross bowed out of the BBC last night. The phrase 'end of an era' is often bandied about with scant regard for its gravity, but it sums up the chat show host's final curtain perfectly.

For ten years, Ross delivered a programme that was so consistent it became almost comforting. The format hardly changed in all his time in the hot seat, neither did his style: a unique mix of satire and sincerity.

It was a no-gimmick, one-on-one format led by a man described as having the "fastest mind to mouth" in the business.

Ross said he didn't want to cry, or rather -- in his habit of name-dropping -- "I promised Morrissey that I wouldn't cry" at the beginning of the programme.

While the one-time Smiths front-man wasn't in attendance, last night's line-up were all personal heroes of the host and men whose careers are -- just like Ross's -- moving in unprecedented directions.

The old boys' club included comeback kid Mickey Rourke; Jackie Chan, who is still making action movies despite his mounting years; and David Beckham, whose career is in limbo since he was sidelined.

Roxy Music, one of Wossy's favourite bands, provided the soundtrack with songs Virginia Plain and Love is the Drug.

"It's like when you're in hospital and all your favourite relatives turn up at your bedside," said Ross about the golden circle of stars he had assembled.

There were constant nods to last night's show being the last ever. When house band, 4 Poofs and a Piano, delivered a rousing opener, Ross deadpanned: "You've been hiding the fact that you can actually sing for 10 years."

He later encouraged Chan to deliver a killer blow to the stage props ("we're out of business -- just do it") and adopted that famous look of mock-horror when Rourke told him "you don't get a second chance".

As per form, he also elicited some interesting revelations. Chan wants to become an "Asian Robert De Niro". Rourke revealed that he couldn't pay for the petrol in his 1963 Mini Cooper during his 14-year exile from Hollywood.

Ross saved the best for last, though. When David Beckham is let out from under Victoria's thumb, he reminds of the child at the birthday party who -- buoyed by too many fizzy drinks -- volunteers all of his Mum and Dad's secrets to any adults who'll listen.

He confided that Victoria warned him not to say anything "silly" ("and always say please and thank you"), but quite what he considers silly is anyone's guess.

In an attempt to deter Ross from his questioning about Fabio Capello's competency, Beckham owned up to a litany of antics which will provide just as much tabloid fodder as his wife's Golden Balls gaffe.

He admitted that he spent his downtime at AC Milan building a replica of the Taj Mahal out of Lego and that his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder requires him to line up soft drinks in his fridge so that all the labels are facing outwards and at a certain angle.

The piece de resistance came when he said that he doesn't mind his wife's "dirty knickers" (his words, not mine) lying around. I think she'll be taking out the wooden spoon when he gets home ...

The show culminated in a straight-to-camera piece by Ross, which looked genuinely unrehearsed. He praised his team, despite admitting that he doesn't know most of their names and he diplomatically praised the BBC, despite the circumstances of his leaving.

As for his promise to Morrissey ... maybe he just got something in his eye ...

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (BBC1) HHHHI


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