Cult Q & A: Paul Ross

❉ Presenter, film buff and all-round top bloke Paul Ross.

Television and radio presenter, journalist and media personality Paul Ross began his broadcasting career a researcher at London Weekend Television before becoming an editor for The Six O’Clock Show and The London Programme. He worked as the series editor on series 3 and 4 of Channel 4’s  The Word, and became executive producer for series 5.

Paul’s onscreen break came in 1993 with Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast, on which he worked first as a reporter and then as a studio presenter. Since then, Ross has continued to work as a TV presenter on many shows, including a gazillion game shows such as All Over The Shop and No Win No Fee for the BBC, Jeopardy for Sky One, Endurance UK for Challenge TV and many, many more.

Paul recently appeared on a celebrity edition of Mastermind, choosing “The Life and Works of Ezra Pound” as his specialist subject and he currently hosts Full Set Breakfast, TalkRADIO’s fast paced Breakfast Show.

What were you like at school?

Was a kind of swotty rebel at school – went to single sex comprehensive – uniforms, tough teachers who still used the cane. Some masters were great, others were at war with us.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

At infant school I remember wanting to be a Missionary as it would involve going to Africa and the risk of being eaten by lions – or cannibals. Later an actor, then a poet, then a professor – so nothing really worked out for me.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Don’t try too hard to be popular. No-one gets on with everyone.

What are your best and worst qualities?

Best: Can be charming and supportive. Worst: Capable of using best qualities to manipulate people.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

Worst job? Enjoyed something about everything I’ve done, from shelf stacking and loading lorries to bingo calling on Herne Bay seafront and presenting game shows.

Who were your pop culture heroes growing up?

Humphrey Bogart, Buster Keaton, Sam Peckinpah, Norman Mailer.

What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?

Hmmm. Fickle when it comes to TV. The World at War. The Prisoner (original of course!) and – recently Taboo and The OA on Netflix.

Monty Python: Is it funny?

Python still funny – right place right time though. Shame Marty Feldman (forgotten master) and Sir David Jason never stayed with them – and Denise Coffey. Eric Idle my favourite.

What was the last film that you watched?

Last films I saw: A Cure for Wellness – Loved it! Hidden Figures – ditto.

What film could you watch every day?

Lawrence of Arabia, Patton: Lust for Glory, City Lights, Le Mépris, Singing in the Rain. Rio Bravo. The Wild Bunch. La Bonne Année. And The Seven Samurai and maybe The Roaring Twenties then bed…

What’s your favourite film soundtrack?

As a soundtrack, Once upon a Time in the West. For songs Singin’ in the Rain or La La Land.

Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?

Westerns are my favourite genre. Shame Lee Marvin and John Wayne were never directed by Peckinpah.

Which film, book or album last disappointed you the most?

None spring to mind… maybe Harrison Ford’s Random Hearts?

Which album would you recommend and lend to a friend?

Suede’s second, Dog Man Star, as a more obscure offering. And Earth, Wind & Fire’s I Am – but everyone’s heard that surely?!

Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?

The Complete Carry On soundtracks.

Which book would you save if your house was on fire?

Tricky. Got some Ezra Pound first editions – or maybe the Annotated Waste Land – Pound turned Eliot’s babble into poetry the rest of us are still trying to catch up with.

What’s your definition of what makes something cult?

Cult: a way of signalling how cool you are, that you get it – but don’t really want everybody else too.

What are you reading at present?

Just finished Anthony Hoerr’s remarkable All the Light We Cannot See, just started Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety.

You started your TV career at LWT. Can you tell us a little about that?

After training on local papers in Devon got a job as a researcher at LWT. Hired by Greg Dyke. Worked with Danny Baker. Learnt a LOT. Was a producer in two years.

You spent a few years working on two of the most iconic shows of the ’90s, The Word and The Big Breakfast. What was that like?

The Word... TV to talk about! Did two series. Felt like 10. What’s that Zeppelin track? “Good Times, Bad Times?” Still see Mark Lamarr – top chap.

Working in the media over the years, who were your inspirations, and has there ever been any professional rivalry between you and your younger brother Jonathan Ross?

Danny (Baker) a huge inspiration – although I will (at best) only be the Jim Dale to his Tommy Steele. No sibling rivalry with Jonathan – am the eldest of six, he’s number three – thrilled by his talent and success. He’s a charismatic natural on camera – I simply know the tricks. Would love to have produced him.

What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?

At his LWT leaving Do Greg Dyke told me: “Believe in Yourself!” So I try to.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your life?

Charles Dickens and Danny Baker. And Bobby Moore – Always Look Up…

Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?

Have met (as in interviewed) “heroes” – writers and directors – but never really got to know any of them.

What do you do to chill out?

The usual suspects… books/films/music/TV and long walks with a big dog.

You’ve been hosting The Full Set Breakfast on TalkRadio since March 2016. What’s it been like? Can you tell us a little about it?

Love hosting the breakfast show on talkRADIO. Every day something different. Been there a year now – Straining up under the Bear, as Alan Partridge would say!

Thanks a lot for your time, Paul!

❉ You can listen to Paul Ross presenting  The Full Set Breakfast on TalkRadio on weekday mornings.

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