thu 11/08/2022

Piers Morgan's Life Stories: John Lydon, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Piers Morgan's Life Stories: John Lydon, ITV

Piers Morgan's Life Stories: John Lydon, ITV

The former Pistols frontman makes an interview of bits an enjoyable ride

One of these men causes moral outrage…

The British, it is said, are victims of reserve – eschewing anger, open affection and hurt for crossface winkyface sadface. While an over-simplified (not to mention shockingly solipsistic) take on a far from unique tendency, there is a kernel of truth here. A difficulty, perhaps, in conveying emotions accurately. A mistrust of heightened states – a tendency to misconstrue and get caught up in guilt, blame and shame.

This could go some way to explaining why, when John Lydon, the russet-topped frontman of the Sex Pistols accosted the nation with his thousand-yard stare and combination of snarling anger and righteous fury, the nation responded with shock and disgust at the filth and the fury. They were simply assaulted by real emotion writ large. Of course, it could just be because he said "fuck" a lot and appeared to hate the Queen.

If you will insist on being Piers Morgan, then the possibility of being punched in the face is an occupational hazard

The subsequent acceptance of John Lydon among the non-music-loving masses, started with his disarming and charming forest camp antics in I’m a Celebrity and has now, surely reached a peak (or, possibly, nadir) with an appearance on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, a shonky, muddled mix of formats masquerading as an in-depth chat show in the Parky mould.

Before Lydon sat down with Piers Morgan there was a bewildering, direct-to-camera segment in which Piers claimed to be afraid of being assaulted by his guest. Now, if you will insist on being Piers Morgan, then I think you probably have to accept the possibility of being punched in the face as an occupational hazard, but this was a clumsy and predictably clichéd attempt to ramp up a sense of danger that was as unnecessary as it was staged. It proves, I suppose, that you can take the boy out of the tabloid, but you can’t take the tabloid out of the boy. Not if you insert it hard enough, anyway.

An hour-long interview tends to work best when it’s allowed to flow, when you feel like you’re watching something unfold. Here though, just as it looked like there was some real emotion coming from his subject – when Lydon was talking about the death of his mother, for instance – Morgan left a single beat before asking another, unrelated, question. Gone were the chances of unexpected revelations, and with it, any new insight. A generous reading of the situation was that the host was worried he was getting into areas that he was uncomfortable navigating. If that’s the case, then he might want to reconsider his role as interviewer. An unkind reading is that he’s simply repeating questions off a card and has no idea how to react. If that’s the case, then he might want to reconsider his role as interviewer. Still, at least he’s got an option.

Even if Morgan had managed to negotiate a decent conversation, the format doesn’t lend itself to an extended chat. The cutaways to Morgan narrating archive clips and summarising his guest’s past, intercut with friends and family telling us what they’re like, rather than letting us see for ourselves, is an incongruous mix – This Is Your Life rebooted as an E! Channel documentary for people who like fast-moving colours and uncomplicated shapes.

When you factor in the ad breaks, it all made for a very disjointed experience, but Lydon is always a good watch. There was a story about hiding from Paul McCartney, lots about teeth and a well-known, but still entertaining, bit about trying to get Richard Branson arrested. Throughout, John Lydon switched effortlessly between playful and fun and utter conviction. When talking about his meningitis-induced four-month coma and the effect it had on him, there was a clear sense of consequence: his lost memory meant he had to put his faith and trust completely in other people, especially the parents he could no longer recognise. The result is his absolute disdain for dishonesty and liars. Feel free to make your own inference bearing in mind the context. 

However, we travelled the route Piers Morgan had programmed the sat nav to take us, and it was one that skirted indelicately round the cluttered junction of Jimmy Savile accusations. Interestingly, when addressing the then rumours of abuse alluded to in an unbroadcast interview from the Seventies, Lydon was asked, “Did you try to do anything about it?” by the former editor of a national tabloid newspaper. For a moment, it was almost as if you could actually hear a buck being passed.

By the end, despite the cut-and-shut vehicle, excessive comfort breaks and reversing back out of conversational cu-lde-sacs, we'd still had the benefit of being in John Lydon's good company. Shame about the chauffer, mind.  

Despite the cut-and-shut vehicle, excessive comfort breaks and reversing back out of conversational cu-lde-sacs, we had the benefit of being in John Lydon's company

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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I enjoyed this interview and thought Mr Lydon had some sensible things to say....he is not what he appears at all.

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