Jonathan Ross bade a tearful goodbye to the BBC this weekend and there was not a wounded old-timer in sight, unless you count Jackie Chan listing his broken bones. Ross presented his last "as live" (the euphemism for recorded) Radio 2 show yesterday morning, and his last Friday Night with Jonathan Ross the evening before.
Viewers must have hoped that, after nine years, the chat show would end with a bang. Instead there was literally a whimper: Wossy choked back a sob at the end, though this was nothing compared to the keening in the British press over his loss.
Considering the often hysterically poor taste Ross has shown in his 13 years at the BBC, his swansong was very demure.
And it had a superannuated air, featuring a succession of guests past their best – Chan, Roxy Music, Mickey Rourke, David Beckham... Ross and Jackie Chan had a go at punching up that retro set, and Beckham sat on Ross's knee and had a bit of a cuddle, but that was it.
Who wants to watch Mickey Rourke trying to get a sentence together, unless it's to contemplate again what it is about his face? Who wants to listen to David Beckham banging on about the troops? "Really, you are an exceptional person," Ross told Beckham. Feelings were running high, but this was unforgivable toadying from a man who can usually be counted on to be daringly funny, even when his guest is a drip.
In 2006, Ross asked the new Conservative leader David Cameron, "Did you or did you not ever have a wank thinking of Thatcher?" He described Heather Mills as "a f***ing liar" and said he wouldn't be surprised "if we found out she's actually got two legs".
Then, most famously, there was Sachsgate, after which the BBC was fined £150,000 (€177,000) and you could have played boules with all the rolling heads.
For his critics, though – paid and unpaid – Ross's greatest sin was not his oafishness but the price of it. Even one less zero in his reputed £16.9m (€20m) three-year contract would have covered a multitude.
Ross must now be surprised to find his rehabilitation accomplished so soon. Having groused about him until this minute, people are now saying, "I always liked him, you know". It's an admirable bit of career management, achieving complete redemption without having to go to the trouble of actually dying.