The chat show is an odd beast. Back in the day, when Parkinson roamed the earth, it was good, but now it’s just for those pedalling their wares. The material at the start of such shows can also be a tad ropey, the presenter hitting us with some topical quips they have read for the first time on the autocue.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t hear what Jonathan Ross was talking about as I was transfixed by other material — the magnificent pair of sparkling, golden trousers he was sporting, paired with a black school blazer.
It can be hard to match things up, and the same can be said of Jonathan’s guest list, as Stephen Merchant, Sting, Riz Ahmed, Sheridan Smith and Gary Barlow were trotted out.
“We’re going to be joined later by someone else. We have a quiet, timid TV presenter who likes to keep himself to himself, but we’ve encouraged him to step into the spotlight for one night only,” Ross told us as we cut to Jeremy Clarkson in the green room.
Off we went with some laboured chat and then, like a Bash Street Kids’ fancy-dress party, there was plug after plug, with books, films and albums all being shamelessly flaunted in front of us.
It was actor Ahmed who made way for Clarkson, who also has a new book about his new farming life, but, in the main, it was torturous stuff rescued from oblivion by Merchant cracking a few funny stories.
It’s not often Clarkson plays second fiddle, his revelation that he encountered Sting once before in a bar in Moscow being met with such disinterest by the former Police frontman he may as well have been walking on the moon.
So, once we’d learned that cows are less belligerent than sheep and that Sting had once seen a goat, sorry, ghost, it was over to Sheridan, the proud owner of six dogs and six donkeys, to duet with Barlow.
There was no mention if he was the owner of any animals, but the festive duet with Smith was an utter turkey — watch it fly to the top of the charts.
Free from the shackles of being nice to people, Clarkson was back to his usual form the following evening with a double helping of shows.
We’ll start with the latter, if I may, and a re-run of It’s Clarkson on TV.
There have been several previous hosts, including Keith Floyd and Chris Tarrant (more of him presently), but there is only one man who can be called the master — the late Clive James, who left the role when he transferred to BBC.
Much the same as Clarkson, albeit in reverse. Tarrant, of course, was the original host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and opinion is divided on whether the original man in the chair is the best. I love them both.
Unlike Tarrant, Clarkson is, well, punchier as a host and especially on the celebrity version which took centre stage on Sunday evening, with Pointless host Alexander Armstrong prising himself into the hotseat like a zebra walking into an all-lions pub.
I love Pointless, I watch it religiously.
By that I mean I tune in daily, I don’t sit in a wimple and habit offering up prayers — well, not every day — but to make him feel at home, Clarkson offered some advice to his fellow quizmaster.
“Pointless. This is very similar, except Tuvalu isn’t the answer to absolutely everything,” he said and true Pointless fans cackled in their cassocks.
Unless you are from Tuvalu, there should be no real excuse for not getting to £32,000, given you now have four lifelines, something a zebra in the Red Lion would give his right hoof for.
But then came a problem. The £1,000 question and the pointless waste of his 50/50 and then worse to come, a question about Stanley Kubrick that saw two phone-a-friends come and go and, worse still, Clarkson looked smug.
“You’ve wasted two lifelines ringing numpties, frankly. I adore Kubrick, but
I’m b******d if I can remember what the spaceship is called,” he said, before plucking the correct answer out of the exosphere.
We hit the £32k mark, thanks to Piltdown Man, the made-up archaeological find.
“It was claimed to be the missing link between man and ape, although it was later discovered that that was one of the producers on Top Gear,” he said, as Armstrong looked for a one-way ticket to Tuvalu.
And things got worse, risking the £125,000 question about nuclear meltdown and getting it wrong, tumbling back down to £32,000 and looking sheepish. Belligerent blighters that they are, just ask Clarkson.