Itv's punt on an extravagant weekend schedule is a lot more miss than hit
Jonathan Ross returned to television last weekend. No doubt his new employers, ITV, hoped the reaction from viewers and critics alike would be one big "Wey-hey!" But it was more a case of "Ho-hum".
The Jonathan Ross Show on Saturday night was one of the main components in the network's big, fat weekend entertainment extravaganza, which was supposed to batter the living daylights out of the competition.
The other supposed jewels in the crown were The X Factor, the live, million-pound gameshow Red or Black?, and the heavyweight two-part drama Appropriate Adult, about serial killers Fred and Rosemary West. Only the latter, featuring a stunning performance by Dominic West, lived up to expectations. As for The X Factor . . . it's The X Factor, what can you say?
People had plenty to say about Red or Black?, mind you, and none of it was remotely positive. In spite of being created by Simon Cowell and hosted by the hitherto bullet-proof partnership of Ant and Dec, the general consensus is that Red or Black? -- which is simulcast on TV3 -- is an absolute stinker.
It's dementedly bombastic stuff, transmitted from Wembley Arena before a frenzied audience of 1,000. The set is dominated by a gigantic roulette wheel on which contestants bet red or black on the outcome of various stunts. The winner walks away with a prize of £1m.
Strip away the star presenters, the big-money prize and the enormous production budget, rumoured to be £15m, and you're left with a dumb little gameshow.
But modesty not being one of Simon Cowell's qualities, Red or Black? is padded out to 90 unbelievably tedious minutes, divided between a main show and a results show.
Saturday's edition pulled in 7.2 million viewers. By Sunday night, the figure had dropped by 1.8m. If it continues to lose viewers at this rate, Red or Black? could well turn into an even bigger, not to mention more costly, ITV disaster than The Marriage Ref.
But where does all this leave Jonathan Ross? Well, in pretty much the same place he was in the dying days of his BBC contract. The Jonathan Ross Show is virtually identical to Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, only with a bigger set and without 4 Poofs and a Piano.
And yet, there's something not quite right about it. Maybe it's because all ITV's light entertainment shows have the same bland, glossy visual style, but instead of Ross's show standing out, as it did on BBC1 (at least before the host was neutered post-Sachsgate), it becomes just another pattern in the moving wallpaper that makes up ITV's Saturday night schedule.
Ross's first show bagged an audience of 4.3m, about a million more than he got on BBC1. The expectation is that figure will drop as viewers who tuned in out of curiosity tune back out again.
The betting is open on when The Jonathan Ross Show will be revamped or relocated to a different night. Place your bets -- red or black?