An estimated five million people watched Jonathan Ross' television comeback after his three-month suspension.

A peak of 5.1 million people saw the presenter interview comic Lee Evans, broadcaster Stephen Fry and actor Tom Cruise on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, according to early figures.

Ross had earlier remarked it was "nice to be back" on Radio 2, as he made his return to the airwaves following a three-month suspension.

The presenter was punished by the BBC for his involvement in the controversy surrounding prank phone calls made to veteran actor Andrew Sachs.

While Russell Brand resigned from his own Radio 2 show over the obscene voicemails left for the Fawlty Towers star, Ross was suspended from the network for three months, with his chatshow, film review programme and radio show all postponed.

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross returned on BBC1 last night and Ross today restarted the hosting of his Radio 2 morning show, retaking the reins from Richard Allinson, who had filled the 10:00 GMT slot during his absence.

In his opening address on his talkshow, Ross apologised for the messages left for Sachs, in which he and Brand joked about the latter having slept with Sachs' granddaughter.

In reference to recently-departed US president George Bush as well as the prank calls scandal, he joked: "What sort of idiot would say stuff like that knowing it was going to be broadcast?"

But he continued: "On that subject, there can't be many viewers watching who aren't aware that this show hasn’t been on recently and the reason for its absence.

"Well, I am going to take this opportunity to apologise for what I said on the radio because being on the BBC, and being allowed this level of freedom to communicate openly with people, it's a great privilege and it's something I've always enjoyed and I value enormously."

He vowed to be "more aware of the responsibility that comes with such a gift" in the future.

On his radio show, he added: ""It was nice to be able to go out at the beginning and say sorry to people because I said sorry beforehand, but that message didn't seem to have got out there.

"I got The Feeling the newspapers hadn't actually heard [the broadcast with Brand], even though some of them printed it, so it was nice to go out there and get the chance to get that off my chest."

24/01/2009 15:25:01