He’d made the headlines, fanned the flames and even caused David Dimbleby to record a “never mind the Bollinger” joke for the trailer, but John Lydon’s appearance on Question Time had comparatively little impact on the current affairs show’s ratings last night.
Oh, it started out strong alright with 3.8m people looking in for the first five minutes, presumably in the hope that Johnny would have the good grace to swear immediately after saying hello and allow them all to switch off again, but the show’s viewership declined like the public’s opinion of Bob Diamond over the course of its hour on air, leaving only 2.3m people around to catch Dimbleby’s sign-off.
(And Lydon only uttered one naughty word! “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” as the man himself once said…)
In any case, the show averaged an audience of 2.9m (23% share), which considering the frenzy whipped up by the press at the idea of a famously foul-mouthed former Sex Pistol sitting on the panel, wasn’t very much over the show’s usual average of about 2.7m viewers.
Though in fairness, an hour of debate about banking and drugs was unlikely to match the 7.8m bums on seats that Nick Griffin’s public pillorying did in 2009, and even the frequent flashes of the erstwhile Mr. Rotten’s nipples through his half-buttoned shirt weren’t titillating enough to keep swathes of viewers from their mugs of Horlicks and EL James paperbacks.
Still, Question Time did at least take last night's current affairs crown, resoundly thrashing Newsnight's ratings of 0.6m (4%) and This Week's 0.9m (13%), so while the show may have failed to bring anarchy to the UK, claims of it having no future would be rather premature. And a bit forced.