I was watching the Jonathan Ross show the other night and suddenly decided that rather than being a talented presenter and funny guy he is actually just a bit of a dick. It made me think about chat shows in general and how they have deteriorated along with a lot of the quality of mainstream television over the years. I just thought I might have a bit of a chat about it, so to speak.
I am only going to talk about the ones I have seen as it’s my blog. If you want a detailed history of the chat show genre you have come to the wrong place.
There was a guy called David Frost who used to do one, before my time.
Even though I was in New Zealand we got the Parkinson show out there. I remember watching Parky from when I was very young. The man is a legend and rightly so. The worlds greatest stars of stage, sport and screen graced his guest chairs and the show was always compelling viewing. The Secret? Well Parky sat and listened mostly, he would probe with a question and let them do the answering. Look at a roll call of just some of his guests. Muhammad Ali, Bing Crosby, George Best, Bob Hope, Peter Ustinov, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Redford, Tina Turner, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Liberace, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Orson Welles, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Bette Midler, Celine Dion, Racquel Welch, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Jon Pertwee, Joan Collins, Leslie Thomas, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Kenneth Williams, Billy Connolly, Gene Wilder, Ewan McGregor, Freddie Starr, David Bowie, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Dave Allen, Gary Glitter, John Lennon, Miss Piggy, Noel Gallagher, Tom Cruise, Edith Evans, Mark Knopfler, Luciano Pavarotti, Cher, Madonna, Elton John, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Shane Warne, Thierry Henry, Ricky Hatton, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, Ray Winstone, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Michael Palin, Richard Attenborough, David Attenborough, Mel Gibson, Viggo Mortensen, George Michael, Pierce Brosnan, k.d. lang, Sarah, Duchess of York, Paul Schrader, Peter Sellers, Peter Kay, Paul McCartney, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Clarkson, Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy Osbourne, Julie Andrews, Dame Edna Everage, Helen Mirren, Tommy Cooper, Judi Dench, Naomi Campbell, Harold Wilson, Tony Blair, Olivia Newton-John, Billie Piper, David Tennant, Denzel Washington, Gillian Anderson, Clint Eastwood and Sandra Bullock.
(I think if you click on their names the link will take you off somewhere else, Don’t go, stay here!)
In those days you watched these properly famous people tell us about their interesting lives and adventures. You didn’t feel they were only there to promote the next gig, film, book or whatever which is what we get now. Remember the Oliver Reed interview? The Peter Sellers one? Muhammed Ali getting all ventilated about Islam? Every one was compelling viewing, great entertainment worth staying in for. His show is greatly missed and I often watch some episode or conversation back on YouTube which is great that you can.
Many people have since had a go and mostly failed. Jeremy Clarkson even had one, I enjoyed it but I am a Clarkson fan so that wasn’t hard. It was a good show and it’s a shame it didn’t last. We had Ruby Wax, Charlotte Church, Lilly Savage and of course the irreplaceable Dame Edna. Now that was great telly, however….. Yes, however, there has been a constant theme sneaking into the modern evolution of the chat show and Jonathan Ross is the biggest culprit.
To me the Jonathan Ross chat show is simply a showcase for Jonathan Ross. As was the Dame Edna show. The difference is that Dame Edna or Barry Humphreys was very funny and ‘Wossy’ is the opposite. His guests are there to help him remind us how clever he is. He has had his good mates Ricky Gervais and Jack Dee on the show 8 times!! He talks over his guests, his off colour jokes have gone cold, His sly winks and nods to camera, all too familiar. Every single one of his guests is there to blatantly promote their next offering. It is like a giant ad break hosted by ‘Wossy’. I have seen him compare an awards ceremony and he was quite good. He should stick to that. I won’t even go into his shocking decision-making and gaffes with his great chum Russell Brand. ‘Wossy’ is a spent force, run out of gags and talent. One trick pony to be retired, soon, please.
While Parky had his guests to entertain us. His great talent was his ability to get the guests to open up, While it was his show, it wasn’t actually about him. ‘Wossy’ has his guests to entertain him. He is just not funny or clever. His guests are not what you would call a stellar procession of the great and the good. Like his chum Gervais. While he had a hit with the office, I really wonder where he would be without the writing talent of Stephen Merchant? I’ll tell you where, he would just be an annoying, obnoxious little creep with a whiney voice and a laugh that can strip paint He would actually be David Brent, which is what I think he is.
I’m only briefly going to mention another main protagonist. Allan Carr, the Chatty man. His show is on its 7th outing soon. I would rather put pins in my eyes than watch and listen to a mincing queen grimace and pull camp faces with his little guests. People seem to like the show I guess as it’s not yet been consigned to the dustbin sadly. Horrible fake little man, when do some gay men start speaking like he does? Why do they do it? Apparently he used to work in a call centre? He can’t have been born speaking like that so he is affecting a speaking style and tone that makes most people’s skin crawl. I just don’t get why people watch his show, I don’t get how he has one. I am not aware of anyone in my circle who watches the show.
Finally we come to Graham Norton. I am happy to admit I enjoy the Graham Norton show. Many folk might find this astonishing, well be astonished, I like the show. He is clever, funny and quick-witted, he has toned down much of the innuendo he used to try to shock his audience with and now is a well-rounded entertainer in the Chat show genre. Although it is his show and he drives it you actually feel like he wants his guests to have fun and his audience to have fun. He genuinely comes across as though that is the primary object of the show even if he is bested by a guest more clever and witty. He has taken the Eurovision song contest mantle from Wogan and that is no mean feat. Scoff all you like at the Eurovision but we love it People gather to have parties when it is on. It is our annual opportunity to mock our European Neighbours and their horrible music. I think it’s great that Britain produces the worlds best popular music but sends a talentless nobody to the Eurovision each year. But back to the Graham Norton Show. I make no apologies, the Graham Norton Show is good television. If you wish to stick to a diet of news and serious drama then crack on. Me? I like a laugh on a Friday night. Keep up the good work Graham