host must set his guests at ease, but Walken looked uncomfortable. Maybe Ross should spend an evening going through tapes showing how the family do it in The Kumars at No 42, whose guests always seem to enjoy themselves.
Ross could also do himself a favour by going through old tapes of the Parkinson and Wogan shows. Both were always the soul of politeness and let their guests take the lion’s share of the spotlight. Parky was also good at touching a raw nerve in a guest so gently that his “victim” hardly took offence.
He once interviewed the Queen of Mean, Anne Robinson, and referred to the effects of her drinking on her family and career.
“But that was 25 years ago,” she whined, but took no offence.
Another talk show host who could benefit from watching tapes of how the oldies did it is Ellen DeGeneres. I think she has a sloppy script editor, weak director, or both.
Recently Ellen had Joan Rivers on her show, but the hostess loused it up with inane comments and bunging it all into a few minutes. You just don’t do that with Rivers.
I remember seeing a Wogan special in which Rivers was his only guest. She broke the audience up – Wogan included – while she tore into Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, Tina Turner and members of the Onassis family. In the audience were the Emmanuels who designed Princess Diana’s wedding dress, and Rivers got stuck into them too.
Leno is a reliable talk show host, but maybe I’m prejudiced. He loves cars – and so do I.
In New York I saw people queuing round the block to get into a taping of a Letterman show. I find him drearily sober, a kind of reformed vicar. It’s hard to believe he seduced his female staff.
But my all-time worst is Oprah. You wanna sell something new? Get on to Oprah. Written a new book? Get on to Oprah. She’ll turn it into a best-seller. And when she backed Barack Obama, you knew he’d be president. But it’s Oprah’s blabbermouth pitch that gets me. What’s the bet she could corral all the sheep in Australia if she had to?