Russell Davies is crowd sourcing an analogy library so I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring. Here goes...
Working for the BBC is like having dinner with Joe Pesci. Sometimes it's impossible to know how people will react when things go wrong.
With so many heads rolling over the whole Brand Ross affair one can't but help look back and ask 'How did it all come to this'? If for a moment you can somehow try to erase everything that has gone since from your mind, and bring yourself back to that moment, would anyone predict that what had been said would have had such dramatic consequences. Really? Ultimately it all comes down to a judgment call on whether Andrew Sachs would view such comments as lighthearted or intentionally offensive.
The whole thing reminds me of the scene in Goodfellas when at the end of yet another hilarious anecdote by Tommy (Joe Pesci) somewhere in amongst the riotous laughter Henry (Ray Liotta) is heard to say 'You're funny'. Unfortunately for Henry the comment made in good spirit was not taken that way by Tommy and what followed was very comfortable to watch...pretty much like the news this week.
From this point on it's hard to imagine how Russell Brand or Johnathan Ross will perform given that somewhere in the back of their minds is the fear of a Pesci-like reaction waiting to leap on every comment made about a celebrity. Similarly staff at the BBC will fear a Pesci-like reaction from the public at any content deemed 'risky'. Who wants a bad judgment call on their CV? Calculated risks will be gone forever, replaced by much safer Radio/TV programming at a time when people are calling for the BBC to be more distinctive. I'm not saying insulting people is distinctive, but look beyond the bad language and both were capable of distinctive TV.
Fortunately for Liotta, Pesci was winding him up and it all ends up with laughs and smiles. Sadly for Brand, Ross and Leslie Douglas the only people laughing are the 30,000 who went out of their way to hunt down the audio on Youtube so they could be offended by it. It's a bit like that old Tommy Cooper joke... "Bloke goes to the doctor and says 'Doc, my arm hurts when I do that' (holds arm up in a weird way), so the doctor says 'don't do it then'. That's two analogies in one post.