23 JANUARY 2009

He was as witty as ever, but there was also a heartfelt apology among Jonathan Ross' cheeky jokes as he returned to his Friday night chat show after a three-month ban. The TV presenter - who originally indicated no apology for his part in the Andrew Sachs incident would be forthcoming on the programme – said he was sorry for "any hurt or distress" caused.

"Being on the BBC and being allowed this level of freedom to communicate openly with people is a great privilege and something I've always enjoyed," said Jonathan. "In future I intend to be more aware of the responsibility that comes with such a gift."

The 47-year-old received a rousing reception from the studio audience as he stepped onto the set with his opening gambit: "So where were we…?". And he didn't pass up the chance to make jokes at his own expense, responding to Tom Cruise's comment that he was too busy by quipping: "You should try getting banned."

Many commentators are already hailing his return to Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, which airs on BBC1 at 10.35pm, as a success. "He was a bit nervous, but that probably helped him," says a BBC insider. "He said he was sorry, then stormed the show."

Photo: Rex
"I do apologise for any hurt or distress it's caused," confessed Rossy during the programme. He went on to joke, when star guest Tom Cruise complained of being too busy: "You should try getting banned"
Photo: Rex
Jonathan also came in for some light-hearted ribbing from actor Stephen Fry, who told him: "I'm happy to help you get off the naughty step"
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