The main sense I have this evening is that much of the venom towards Ross and Brand is coming from people who have never liked them in the first place. 2 people complained about the original broadcast, but the day it hit the tabloids this number started creeping up over 1000, the next day it shot up to 10,000, and by today this number had hit 27,000.
Sorry, what? Isn’t this a bit ridiculous? I mean, that’s the order of magnitude of the Big Brother racism row. What is driving people to complain, exactly? That they feel sorry for Andrew Sachs? Because by the time most of the complaints were registered, Ross and Brand had already offered sincere apologies to Andrew Sachs. It’s notable that Russell Brand, in his probably correctly judged resignation tonight, is at pains to make it clear that he feels the need to make a statement only for Sachs and Georgina Baillie’s sake, not for the sake of the media storm it has sparked.
Now let me make it clear that I don’t think what Brand and Ross did was especially funny, and I think it was right that they should have apologised. But what strikes me as odd here is the point that people who think they are being clever keep making: “Well, the real question is why their editors broadcast such an offensive piece of radio.” No. No it isn’t. The issue is that they made some calls that upset Andrew Sachs. They should have apologised even if it wasn’t broadcast. The fact it was broadcast is neither here nor there – a fact the show’s regular audience recognised, since nobody who ordinarily listened to the show actually complained about this aspect (the 2 initial complaints were about Ross’s language, specifically).
To my mind, people going on the internet to play back clips that they’ve heard might offend them, with the express intention of being offended and complaining about it, is utterly bizarre. I suspect that much of the anger here is being driven by people who have long felt that Jonathan Ross’s salary was completely inexplicable, and resented the BBC’s belief in what they seem to feel are his unique abilities.
Today, I was sat in a cafe having lunch, while a table of three older ladies behind me had a good mither about the whole thing. It was pretty clear to me that they, like most of the people in this vox pop video, just dislike Ross, and feel he has no place on TV. “I’ve never liked him. He took over that Film 2000 from whatshisname…” “Oh, Barry Norman.” “Yes, that one. He was good, I used to watch him. It was never the same after that Jonathan Ross took over. He’s awful.”* Not once was the specific incident discussed. What was discussed was their general distaste for Ross and Brand’s personas more generally.
What this incident has done is create a flashpoint for a large but disparate anger over these two performers, and in particular Jonathan Ross. If Ross gets through this with his job intact, he would be well advised to ask for a pay cut.
*Whilst I quote this story as an example of what I think are the wrong reasons to want Ross sacked, I can’t say I entirely disagree with them about The Film Programme. If Ross goes, can we have someone who can actually review things as if he actually cared about them? Mark Kermode, perhaps? They could do a lot worse, when presumably Film 2008 isn’t on this week (what with Ross’s suspension), than to simply broadcast an edited copy of the video webcast of Kermode’s Radio 5 reviews on Simon Mayo’s show.