Graham Norton defends modern chat shows


TV star Graham Norton has hit back following Michael Parkinson's criticism of the current generation of chat show hosts, and bemoaned the rise of "goody goody" dramas.

Veteran broadcaster Parkinson, 77, who retired from his chat show in 2007, has called it "sad" that traditional shows have been replaced by programmes that are fronted by comics.

But Norton, 49, who replaced Jonathan Ross in the Friday night slot on BBC1, told the Radio Times: "What we're in the business of doing isn't really interviewing people.

"We're in the business of entertaining an audience, so you're not really going to get an insight from the questions I ask. You'll get an insight from watching how that person on the couch interacts with the others. That is often really revealing."

Norton, who is thought to have taken a pay cut from a reported £2 million a year BBC contract to present his TV show, his Radio 2 slot, Eurovision and other work, admitted that he was "not a good interviewer".

He labelled Reservoir Dogs star Harvey Keitel his worst guest, saying: "He hated being there. He didn't really speak at all.

"He had a fit because I had some action figure of him that had a gun. But once you've been in Reservoir Dogs, it's a bit late to tell kids don't play with guns."

The former Channel 4 star told the magazine that TV and the audience had become more illiberal since he began working in the industry.

"There are things we can't say and do on TV or radio that 10 years ago we absolutely could have said or shown," he said.

"I think that's the BBC reading the mood of the audience - the audience don't particularly like cruel jokes, and I think they did."

Asked whether it was an accurate or paranoid reflection of the audience, he said: "Probably a bit of both. We'd show a picture that might have had a penis in it, and we can't show that now. The audience really laughed at it, and that's sort of stopped."

He added: "If you think back to some of the shows we watched growing up like I Claudius - that would never be shown now. I wonder would Queer As Folk happen now?... And the big drama hits now are so goody goody. Like you would never see a nipple on Downton Abbey.

"When we were growing up, you'd have thought that by now in EastEnders there could be nudity, but that's not the case."

Norton also told the magazine that "fear" prevented him going under-the-knife to get his eye-bags fixed, that he did not have celebrity friends, and that he had no regrets about his failed attempt to make it in the US.

He said he would not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Ross by flirting with some of his chat show guests.

"An awful lot of female celebrities are very beautiful whereas a lot of male celebrities are not so hot... If you're interviewing Ricky Gervais, you can't go, 'Phwooar!"'

He added: "You don't want those guys to think they have some power over you... You'd feel grubby; that they'd won somehow."

Norton said that Ross would still be in the same job following the Sachsgate scandal, if he had been working at a commercial broadcaster.