On the random scale, this story ranks 11. Not because Brand and Ross acting like immature eejits is in anyway startling - more that the target of their insolence was Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Lord, didn't the he get enough sh*te from John Cleese?!
The way this story is being reported, one would think they'd yanked 78-year-old Andrew Sachs' pants down in public and then hurled infantile jibes at him for longer than necessary - before suggesting suicide as an outlet... In fact, all they've done is highlight that, firstly, they're not that funny (bullying never is, kids) and, secondly, the British public have been harbouring a resentment regarding Ross and Brand's bulbous pay packets.
The short(ish) story goes thusly: Jonathan Ross joined Russell Brand over a week ago to host the latter's radio show. Brand had arranged to ring Andrew Sachs (to promote some new TV show or other. The name's been lost in the ether; a shame as this is promotional gold) and, when Sachs failed to pick up the call, the comedians proceeded to leave prank messages on his answering machine. The show, which was pre-recorded, got the OK from producers and aired last weekend. The BBC promptly received over 1,500 complaints, and Ofcom are investigating the matter. Sky News has since conducted a poll to see if viewers think Brand and Ross should loose their jobs over the incident - at last count, 93% of the public voted in the affirmative.
So, what did these messages (four in total) entail? Well, you can listen to them here yourselves, but the general jist goes as follows: Russell Brand: "Hello Andrew Sachs, this is Russell Brand... you are meant to be on my show now, mate... I am here with Jonathan Ross. I could still do the interview to your answerphone". Jonathan Ross: "Let's do it..." Brand: "Man... er, Andrew Sachs". Ross: "Don't call him Manuel, that's really bad manners. I apologise for Russell - he's an idiot". Brand: "I said Andrew Sachs! Look Andrew Sachs, I have got respect for you and your lineage and your progeny, never let that be questioned". Ross: "Don't hint..." Brand: "I weren't hinting! Why did that come across as a hint?" Ross: "Because you know what you did." Brand: "That wasn't a hint." Ross: "He f***ed your granddaughter!" Brand: "That's his answerphone!" Ross: "I'm sorry... I apologise Andrew, I apologise, I can't help it, you were talking about it and it was in my head, I apologise". Brand: "Jonathan!" Ross: "I got excited, what can I say, it just came out". Brand: "Right. You wait till I come on your show. Andrew Sachs, I did not do nothing with Georgina... oh no, I revealed I know her name! Oh no, it's a disaster! Abort, abort! Put the phone down, code red, code red! I’m sorry Mr Fawlty, I'm sorry. You're a waste of space! Oh no, Jonathan..." Ross: "If he is like most people of a certain age, he has probably got a picture of his grandchildren when they were young and innocent right by the phone. So while he is listening to the message, he is looking at a picture of her when she was about nine on a swing..." Brand: "She was on a swing when I met her. Let's ring back Andrew Sachs". (Second message) Ross: "Hello! Manuel here!" Sachs's answer machine: Sorry I can't answer at the moment... Brand: [interrupting] "I am too busy thinking about killing myself. Andrew, this is Russell Brand. I am so sorry about the last message - it was part of the radio show, it was a mistake. The truth is I am phoning you to ask if I can marry - that's right, marry - Georgina the granddaughter". Ross: "Let's just sing to him." The pair then sang an impromptu apology that David O'Doherty would be proud of.
To quote Former BBC deputy Director General Will Wyatt: "It was completely inappropriate. It is like a couple of drunken teenagers in a phone box trying to rag one of their chums. But actually this was broadcast over a licence-fee paid for network and it was to an ageing actor who hadn't done anyone any harm."
The aging actor in question said: "People ask me if I'm angry. Well yes, I am - but not half as angry as Georgina (Georgina is an exotic dancer. She's part of a "vampire-themed dance troupe called the Satanic Sluts" and her stage name is Voluptua. I am not making this up). That's where the apology should be directed." Georgina's mother, Kate, said: "Those two should just learn to grow up. My father is the world's most decent man and to put him up in front of an audience for humiliation is outrageous."
Finally, an undisclosed senior BBC type said: "The whole episode is rather sad, but Jonathan in particular should have known better. His contribution to the stunt was considerably more lurid and his long experience should have told him the whole exercise was a bad idea. Jonathan's persona is meant to be edgy, but there appears to be a total lack of discipline when it comes to taking any real responsibility for his actions. He clearly views himself outside the normal boundaries of broadcasting behaviour. And goodness knows why his producers can't control him." Because they've given him too much power. They handed him a contract, worth 18 million pounds, to spittle scripted twaddle. Is it any wonder he looses the run of himself when asked to improvise?
OK, so that's the story in a MASSIVELY oversized nutshell. Did anyone die in the process? No. Did Andrew Sachs bring public attention to his (still nameless) show? Kind've. Did Russell whip up additional interest in his new series of Ponderland, which just so happens to be starting on Channel 4 this week? Certainly. Will Georgina start getting more work as an exotic dancer? Undboutedly. Did Russell and Jonathan expose themselves in more ways than one and provide a fine example of the adage: 'Give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves...?'
*Update: An additional 10,000 complaints have been sent in to the BBC - since those busy people at Sky News got their fangs into the story. The incident has also been addressed "as a matter of urgency" in the houses of Parliament...