Quite the most upsetting thing I saw on TV all week was Bob Geldof on the Jonathan Ross show (Friday), talking about all the dead Africans who are found washed up on the shores of Lampedusa, between Libya and Sicily. So many, he said, that the mayor of Lampedusa complained that he had ‘literally’ no room anywhere left to bury them.
Now, obviously, Africans dying en masse is a bad thing. But I’m afraid what upset me far, far more was the fact that Ross allowed Geldof to get away with this lachrymose homily (which got a huge cheer from the audience, unfortunately) on a show normally characterised by its flipness, brazenness and irreverence. ‘Yeah, yeah, St Bob, save that guff for Parky,’ Ross might have said had he been on form. ‘What we weally want to know tonight is: nostril hairs. Do you pluck ’em, snip ’em or shave ’em?’
The genius of Jonathan Ross, 99 per cent of the time anyway, is that he never allows himself to be cowed by the egos of the celebrities he’s interviewing. Sure, he’ll lay on the charm and flattery to put them at their ease. But he’s rarely afraid to put to them the killer question that leaves you simultaneously squirming and brimming with admiration at his audacity.
When he interviewed Ringo Starr, for example, he dared to bring up the cruel John Lennon quip about Ringo not even being ‘the best drummer in the Beatles’. And when he interviewed the dauntingly po-faced and introverted Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Ross coaxed from him not just the odd smile but very nearly an agreement to be Britain’s entry in the next year’s Eurovision song contest, too.
What an awful disappointment, then, that he should have allowed himself to be bullied into giving airspace to Geldof’s hectoring, simplistic and politically dubious demagoguery.