John Lydon's 'spiteful' Question Time debut backfires on BBC
Sex Pistols frontman's persistent interruptions and bizarre contributions likened to a 'ranting drunk'
JOHN LYDON was greeted by rapturous applause from the Question Time audience as the show began last night. By the end, his comments were met with nothing but stony silence.
The appearance of Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, on the BBC's flagship current affairs show last night was meant to be something of a coup for the Corporation. Casting the Sex Pistols frontman and famed anarchist in the 'unusual guest' slot of the five-man panel, it was hoped Lydon would provide a refreshing take on the week's hot topics.
But as the singer's contributions became increasingly bizarre, stifling debate and triggering long awkward pauses, viewers were left with a single overriding question: why, exactly, had the BBC put John Lydon on the show?
And it had all started so well. Answering an opening question on the politicisation of the banking investigation – two villains of the establishment Lydon had so viciously rallied against in his youth – the singer got the evening's first round of applause. Interrupting squabbling MPs Alan Johnson and Louise Mensch, he butted in: "This is why a parliamentary inquiry cannot be trusted".
But from there it was downhill. What started as entertaining enthusiasm to get his point across soon became an irritating check on other panellists' answers. Alan Johnson snapped at the singer for cutting him off. David Dimbleby ordered Lydon to wait his turn.
At one point, the exasperated host even gave up trying to stop one of Lydon's interruptions – a rare sight indeed, given Dimbleby's usual bullish putdowns of any politician who tries to do the same.
Twitter soon turned on Lydon. "Some things are just best left in the 70s," said Channel 4 anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy. "Oh dear, John Lydon just decided to act out being a parody of himself," wrote The Guardian's Jonathan Haynes.
Independent columnist Owen Jones criticised Lydon's "ranting drunk at the pub routine” while BBC presenter John Wilson last night concluded: “Johnny shows true colours when cornered. Snarly, spiteful and nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is."
By the end, his erratic appearance and eccentric points – on the legalisation of drugs, he argued that "you can kill yourself with two tablespoons of table salt. Are you now going to ban table salt?" – had thoroughly worn out the crowd.
As Dimbleby announced their time was up and begun to wrap up, Lydon interrupted him one final time. "God bless ya," he blurted out. The audience responded with silence.