Graham Norton expects backlash from Jonathan Ross fans

Graham Norton has told how he almost turned down the chance to take over Jonathan Ross's BBC Radio 2 show - and expects a backlash from Ross's fans.

Norton also quashed speculation that he could be set to take over Ross's Friday night TV slot, saying "there's been nothing said about Friday nights".

The 47-year-old has been confirmed to take the helm on Ross's long-running Radio 2 Saturday morning show later this year.

Ross, who caused a storm with the notorious Sachsgate prank phone calls scandal, is due to quit the BBC this summer when his contract runs out.

Norton told the Radio Times: "Soon after Jonathan announced he was going, my agent had a conversation with Radio 2 but, to be honest, my immediate response was to say no.

"She said I should at least meet them, but I couldn't see the point because it was going to be a complete waste of time.

"But I went and (BBC Radio 2 controller) Bob Shennan did an incredibly good pitch and convinced me that, if I didn't take it now, I couldn't assume that it would come along again later."

He added: "I'm excited about doing it, but I know that Jonathan has a lot of fans and so there is bound to be a backlash."

Asked if he had exchanged messages with Ross ahead of the handover, Norton said: "I do have his number and so it is a question.

"I do think I'm going to have to speak to him soon because I don't want it to be one of those awkward conversations when I do bump into him. Like the morning after a one-night stand, when nobody quite knows what to say."

Asked about speculation that he may become a double substitute for Ross by also moving his BBC1 chat show to Friday nights, Norton said: "The chances of the TV one are getting a bit remote because they'd have to have made a decision by now: it takes a long time to turn around a TV show."

Asked if he watches his tongue more carefully nowadays, Norton said he had been "toning it down" for a number of years.

He said: "There had been a shift. Audiences actually don't want to push it too far or to be too crude.

"Audiences don't find Amy Winehouse funny any more because now it's the walking wounded. Something bad is going to happen: everyone has that sense. And so, although she could be a very useful punchline, we avoid it.

"And people don't find Jordan (aka Katie Price) funny either. There's a weird respect for what she's done with her life."

Speaking about the BBC cutting down on the money it pays to its leading talent, Norton said: "I didn't volunteer for a cut but I didn't fight it.

"I had a lot of fat years and it's hardly lean years now. You can't complain. I shouldn't say this, but I'd do what I do for a fraction of what I get."

Talking about his previous teatime show Totally Saturday, Norton said: "It obviously ain't nice to be involved in a big old flop.

"But what I do for a living isn't lifting bales or digging coal, so you just get on with it. And although the audience didn't go for it, we actually had a good time doing it."

Referring to the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber's BBC1 talent search Over The Rainbow, Norton said: "I'm just happy to have found one Saturday night hit, with Andrew.

"But look at Ant and Dec with Push the Button. Saturday night entertainment is what they do and they couldn't make that work. So it just shows how hard it is."

Norton took the Eurovision Song Contest reins from Sir Terry Wogan last year, to positive reviews.

But he said: "It was only when I got to Moscow and the dress rehearsal that I realised how horribly it could go wrong. And, in the end, as I spoke into the microphone, I could hear Terry's voice in my head. So I don't think I've made it my own yet. I was a version of Terry last year."

Asked if he had ever been tempted to have cosmetic surgery, Norton said: "Obviously, I've been tempted. But I'm too scared and too lazy. I've been booked in twice to have my eye bags done. Something came up at work both times and I took it as a sign. Even the surgeon said I would look a bit Chinese afterwards."

He added: "Nothing wrong with being Chinese, but you know what I mean. The view I take is that I'm growing into my eye bags."

The full interview appears in the latest issue of the Radio Times.

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