Friday Night with Nadine Dorries, review: Carefully rationed Boris Johnson pre-record lacks bite

Nadine Dorries interviewed Boris Johnson in her first Friday night show - TalkTV
Nadine Dorries interviewed Boris Johnson in her first Friday night show - TalkTV

“This is it – I’m so excited.” One person, at least, was looking forward to Nadine Dorries’s interview with Boris Johnson. That lucky soul was, of course, the ex-Prime Minister, who knew he was in for the lightest of grillings from his former Culture Secretary as she kicked off her new TalkTV chat show, Friday Night With Nadine.

Dorries once described Johnson as “one of the world’s greatest leaders”. Judging by their latest conversation she isn’t in a hurry to revise that opinion. This was an hour of bonhomie and banter, with Johnson occasionally appearing to cower before the blinding light of Dorries’ obsequiousness. It takes a lot to make Johnson cringe – but Dorries achieved it. At one point she apologised for asserting he wasn’t a party animal. He was speechless – a first on national TV (if the description applies to TalkTV, which has suffered floundering ratings).

Dorries, to her credit, didn’t seem in the least worried about how she came across. At the end of the hour-long broadcast, she told her studio panel she’d been terrified. In fact, she visibly enjoyed every minute. She glowed with enthusiasm while praising Johnson for his quick response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And she lit up like the world’s happiest flaming sambuca when appearing to imply “Partygate” was a storm in a champagne flute.

“We made the vaccine,” she said. “Should you have been prowling the corridors [of Number 10] asking them what they were doing?”

“Anyone who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules... that’s all strictly for their birds,” agreed Johnson.

The interview was pre-recorded and carefully rationed. After each excerpt, it was back to the live studio where Dorries, having swopped a red dress for blue, sat opposite journalists Sebastian Payne and Charlotte Ivers, and Labour party advisor Scarlett MccGwire.

Their political perspectives differed from those of the host. And yet the chumminess that was such a distraction in her interview with Johnson, was revealed to be a strength when nattering with the talking heads. There was lots of polite disagreement but nobody lost their tempers – if anything, the struggle revolved around maintaining a straight face. In the shouty milieu in which TalkTV operates, this was the equivalent of a chill-out room. You didn’t necessarily learn much – but it wasn’t an actively unpleasant place to pass the time.

Back with Johnson, Dorries got off a few quirky lines. She described Rishi Sunak as a “submarine” Prime Minster. Johnson answered her serve by referring to Labour’s Keir Starmer as a “human bollard”.

The funniest moment was unintentional. Introducing a quick clip of PM Sunak’s interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, Dorries cut to footage of a robot dog. Johnson’s circuits meanwhile seemed set to overload as he entertained Dorries with an account of his new passion for sketching cows. Back in the studio the panel were handed pads and invited to join in the fun and draw their own livestock.

They went along with it. After Dorries’s chirruping questioning of the former PM and the artificial pooch standing in for Rishi Sunak they may have concluded the evening couldn’t get any more surreal. By the time the cows came along udder madness had already descended.

How wrong they were. Dorries criticised the sketches for their inaccuracy, asked the guests what they thought of the house wine and announced they were all off to the pub. Some viewers may have beaten them to it. After an hour of Nadine and Boris, others will have felt they’d already had all the mind-altering stimulation they could handle.