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Jonathan Ross: the good years

Back when our man new his place: inside a big jacket and perched on a black shiny deskIt’s now a quarter of a century since the twin kings of US late night television, Carson and Letterman, had their best efforts swiped and synthesised into a programme of such dazzling innovation and bankable excitement the like of which British viewers would not have seen before.

Then the offcuts from this programme, which British viewers have still not seen, were tarted up and turned into The Last Resort.

But even though 25 summers have since passed, that show is still the best thing Jonathan Ross has done on television.

It also takes no great presence of mind to state it is the best thing he will EVER do on television.

Let’s revisit it now, in an entirely non-arbitrary fashion, dictated solely by which clips are available online.

To kick off, here’s a visibly nervous Jonathan getting good “guest” (a phrase we don’t think exists, and if it does it shouldn’t) courtesy of an on-form Terry Gilliam, who dominates the set. Which isn’t hard, given said set is approximately the size of one of the Channel 4 Daily’s world news bureaux.

Next, some great stuff with an admirably up-for-it Rick Astley, plus someone wearing a Spycatcher T-shirt. Warning: contains RIVRON.

This clip of Macca, wearing a bin man’s jacket while rocking his way through Lawdy Miss Clawdy, boasts the full end credits of an episode, wherein we see that Jonathan’s guests that night were Robbie Coltrane, Harry Enfield, The Great Kovari (was there anything they didn’t rob off Letterman?), The Norwich Majorettes (presumably for an uproarious “edgy” skit) and Meg Ryan. And is that the future Mrs Deayton we spy on script duties?

Here’s one of the show’s most talked-about moments (in retrospect, that is; very little was talked about The Last Resort when it was actually on the air). An added treat* comes in the shape of a homemade Dr Who-themed ident from whoever uploaded the clip. *It isn’t.

Another set-piece “gag” next. We think the background to this was Jonathan purporting to “miss” interviewing George Harrison while some technical fault contrived to keep viewers watching something else, hence this on-air race to a nearby pub to quiz The Quiet One over a dry sherry while John Peel for some reason looks on. “So what went wrong with Shanghai Surprise?” “We just got the wrong director, the wrong producer, and the wrong actors.”

Here’s a short trailer for the series that began in February 1988, where in Jonathan also tries to “sell” us the excitement that is the Seoul Olympics on Channel 4. Note the dusty schedule-filler C4 is flinging out in the name of “alternative” afternoon entertainment.  Warning: contains more RIVRON.

Finally, a clip from the very last Last Resort in December 1988, with an atypically compliant Peter Cook. The secret of Pete’s success? “Independent wealth and blackmail.”



  1. THX Kling Klang

    February 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    “You’ve gone too far!” No mention of the late, great John Benson? His bemusement was often the funniest thing in the show. With this and The Incredibly Strange Film Show Jonathan Ross was my hero for the duration of The Last Resort’s run.

    Johnny Depp was on it (and gave a tramp the Heimlich manoeuvre), Divine was on it (showing the scene where has sex with himself from Female Trouble), some bloke who ate a dinner service and had two sets of teeth was on it, an eighteen months pregnant Kathy Burke was on it, even Roland Rivron was funny (he once put one of those little surgeon’s cameras down Jonathan’s trousers, giving us an eyeful).

    The worst thing JR ever did was that Harp lager ad, it’s on YouTube if you want to be appalled.

  2. Irish Al

    February 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    So very, very long ago. It was the start of a great era of off-kilter, non-mainstream stuff being available on UK TV for the first time.

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