FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER
While never quite as warm as his radio self, Jonathan Ross' television persona remains a potent force on his Friday chat shows. FNWJR returned last night for another run (interrupted next week by sport, natch) and gave a great example of the format in one sitting.
Ricky Gervais returned, for the zillionth time, to plug his new Extras DVD and his live show Fame. Gervais' friendship with Ross is always played up, with their chats being notoriously strangled. Each man trying to upstage, ridicule and berate the other into submission. To be honest, it's overplayed and somewhat calculating, but Ross clearly relishes being able to spit venom without fear of recrimination.
Next up was Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates. No, you haven't tuned into a UK Gold repeat from 2002 by accident, it really was him. Gates came across as a likeable young man with his head skrewed on, was philosphical about his 15 minutes of fame and good-humoured with the jibes at his stammering past. Of course, Gates was there to plug a new single and "change of musical direction", but spent most of the time discussing speech impediments, to his credit.
Finally, the week's big name guest was saved for last: Mr John Travolta. A real Hollywood legend, make no mistake. The interview was a great example of Ross' style and ability in this arena of television. He's a master of making guests feel comfortable, by revealing some personal information and smiling cheekily between near-the-knuckle gags.
Predictably, his iconic dancing, Grease and Pulp Fiction comeback were brought up. But more interesting was Travolta nattering about his pilot's licence (he owns a Boeing 707), his work schedule (he doesn't work after 6pm, contractually) and some discussion of Scientology, particularly regarding the apparent "no noise" edict of births.
But the highlight came at the end. After an entire show of unsubtle attempts to persuade Travolta to guest-star in the final Extras' Christmas Special, Ross helped his friend out by suggesting Gervais dance with Travolta. The hilarious sight of Gervais flailing around in full-on "David Brent" mode, Ross spinning like a turtle on the floor and JT striking some poses from Saturday Night Fever was another moment of TV gold for the show.
In one episode it encapsulated everyhing that's good and bad about Friday Night with Ross. The love-ins with celebrity friends (Gervais), the ironic guest stars (Gates), superstars (Travolta), frank discussions on touchy subjects (stammering, Scientology), layerings of banter (Gates bedding Jordan), eye-opening reveals (Travolta's jetsetting lifestyle) and the criminally unfunny Four Poofs And A Piano.