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TV: Graham Norton Show \ BBC One \ Episode 8.1

October 23, 2010

Graham Norton on BBC One? Has the world gone mad?

No. Not really. It was the inevitable final act in Mr Norton’s ascendancy, confirmed when Jonathan Ross departed the BBC for other opportunities. What was the BBC going to put in his place? Someone slightly less contentious. But have they played it too safe?

Graham is working just as hard for his money, pre-recording his TV chat and comedy show on a Thursday night in addition to pre-recording his Saturday morning Radio 2 show. I know not when. All I know is it’s not ‘live’.

There’ll presumably be another Lloyd Webber talent show vehicle and the Eurovision in the new year. Yes, Norton is paid a lot but he works hard for it. And he’s a nice bloke too. I’ve witnessed him interacting with random members of the public. He’s an accommodating chap. Clearly he loves his work. This man isn’t a fake.

All this may seem irrelevant especially given that him occupying the big Friday night slot Jonathan Ross had ruled for so long was transitioned in a most uncharacteristic low-key way for the BBC. Anyone who watched Norton’s last series on BBC Two won’t see much difference on BBC One. In fact, you won’t see any difference. Its the same length. It’s the same format. It’s the same studio. Its exactly the same set as it was three and a half years ago.

In some respects thats a good thing. Not making a big thing about moving to a different network shows understandable caution. If you don’t trumpet something you limit the chances of there being an uproar if he’s not as well received as the previous incumbent. You’re giving the talent the best shot at his big spot. Playing it safe avoids causing a rumpus.

But at the same time he may also be being denied a bit of a trick. Now is the time for upping the game. Playing it safe is easily achieved by maintaining consistency. Signalling progression done with the simplest of tweaks. In some respects the most of obvious of these has already been done with the most sober of outfits (mark my words, now I’ve said that he’ll be in something garish next week). The refining can be done other ways.

The bottom line is that we all know than Mr Norton isn’t going to mess things up. We all sense too he’s being kept on a tight leash. So lets see him wriggle a bit and do some things which makes us gasp a bit. We know he won’t shock and offend. But we’d like him to make us gasp and roar with laughter.

But I reckon he could go a bit further with an ever so slightly more sophisticated script at the top of the programme. Save the introductions until seconds before the guests come on. Make the opening monologue slightly more topical, possibly more edgy and absolutely more daring. Don’t be vulgar. Don’t be gratuitous. Don’t be common. Just be daring. Everyone wants to be a bit daring.

Where for example was the comment on the Comprehensive Spending Review – or at least the balanced digs at everyone? Norton doesn’t need to be political. But in reaching out to as many people as possible he might as well tap into the common experience. There’s no shame in that. No way.

On this weeks show Graham was joined by a surprisingly mature Charlotte Church, the kooky Maggie Gyllenhal and an uncomfortable looking Russell Howard. Church has got album out but don’t let that out you off. The track she sings live in the studio is pretty good and the gag played about her own self-funded album release is as simple as it is effective.

Watch the Graham Norton Show via BBC Programmes of if you must via BBC iPlayer.

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One Comment
  1. cyberguycalif permalink

    Nice to know the Graham Norton show is back with new episodes. We get it here on BBC America but it’s about a two week delay.

    If its the same set does that mean it’s the same red sofa? His guests never look comfortable on it, the seat looks to wide and the back to low.

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