Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Graham Norton Show: Late Night Done Right

Late night talk shows are a dependable distraction. Every weeknight you are guaranteed a plethora of opening monologue jokes of varying quality, celebrity interviews that are either carefully rehearsed or completely extemporaneous if you're on the Late Late Show, and some late-night antics that range from the absurd to the sublime. However, if you find yourself bored on a Saturday night with no reliable entertainment in sight, fear not. BBC America has you covered, with The Graham Norton Show airing every Saturday at 11 pm. And this show might be the best dose of late night you get all week.

The opening monologues are mercifully short and the meat of the show rests in the celebrity interviews. And that's where the joy of the Graham Norton Show comes in. Graham doesn't dutifully interview his guests in single file and send them back to their handlers. Instead, every guest is called out at once to sit on the long couch and spend a raucous hour talking about their work, their lives, and the bizarre world of fame. All while Norton brings up hilarious things he has found on the Internet, crazy fans lurking in his audience, and a general sense of mockery that is highly refreshing from the fawning adoration that most celebrities are subjected to on late night. The celebrities themselves are usually very relaxed and eager to join in the fray and ridicule each other - this may have something to do with the fact that they are plentifully supplied with alcohol instead of a tame mug of water, and as the glasses get emptier, the jokes get funnier.

Another advantage of this being a weekly show instead of a nightly one, is that the featured guests aren't your typical range of super famous A-lister to completely obscure stand-up comic. A few weeks ago, the show featured Jon Hamm, Charlize Theron, and Steve Coogan all together, whereas most late night shows wouldn't dream of having Theron and Hamm on the same night (Coogan is very successful in the UK, but I suppose for American audiences he might as well fall into the category of obscure comedian). Having all this talent in one setting allows for ridiculous exchanges and the chance to see a lot of very famous people completely let their hair down. Oftentimes it can also just be fun to see the American actors struggling to keep up with their British counterparts who are much more used to a loose talk show format and willing to say anything without worrying about their image.

Finally, we come to Stories From the Red Chair, the segment that faithfully concludes every episode of The Graham Norton Show. In this segment, an audience member sits down on a red chair and is tasked with telling a story to Graham and his guests. If the story isn't interesting, Graham has a lever he can pull to tip the chair over and get rid of the audience member. That's the theory. In practice, that chair gets tipped over for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from if the person just sounds too posh, to a celebrity just wanting to pull the lever and experience the joy of tipping over a fellow human being. This is a show that fully embraces the great British traditions of never taking yourself too seriously and mercilessly mocking everything in sight. So this Saturday, find BBC America on your cable listings and add Graham Norton to the ever-expanding list of late night hosts who can always be depended on for a good time.

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