Graham Norton: Secret to show’s success is its unique format

Graham Norton has identified his chat show’s unique format as the secret behind its massive success and ability to attract A-list celebrities.

Graham Norton: Secret to show’s success is its unique format

The broadcaster returns tonight with a new series of The Graham Norton Show on BBC1.

He said the main reason the programme has ratings of over 4m viewers and trounces rivals such as Jonathan Ross was down to a winning formula of having all the guests on at once, and including them all in light-hearted banter.

“It’s a format that makes sense,” he said. “Stars usually get eight minutes on a chat show to plug their movie and they’d better be funny in those eight minutes. On our show they get several chances to shine.”

The 51-year-old identified an episode in the last series, featuring Hollywood stars Matt Damon and Bill Murray and Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonneville as one of his favourite TV memories.

He recalled: “It was one of those perfect shows where the three guys obviously adored each other and got on well and were in a great mood.

“It was so much fun. I love those evenings when I don’t have to work — I just let it happen. The audience was proper belly-laughing. At the end, we all wished it had been the last show of the season so we could go out on a high.”

However, he admitted that on occasions the magic fails to happen on screen — particularly with younger interviewees.

“Sometimes guests just stay nervous,” he said. “Maybe they’re thinking I’m out to get them or maybe they don’t get the humour and worry that we’re laughing at them.

“By and large I really like having older people on, people like Will Smith, because they’ve been around the block and they get to break out of that eight-minutes-on-the-sofa thing and tell longer stories.”

Norton, brought up in Bandon, Co Cork, also admitted two stellar stars have eluded him to date — actress Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt; the latter reportedly will only do Ellen DeGeneres’ show. But Norton said he’s as keen as ever to get back to work, having relaxed for most of the summer at his holiday home in West Cork.

In an interview with The Daily Express, he added: “I take a long break for the summer and really don’t do anything. I sit around in the west of Ireland and do a couple of charity events, so I do get geeked out when I get the call sheets about guests who are coming up. It feels truly exciting.”

lThe Graham Norton Show is on BBC1 at 10.35pm tonight and will feature new Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi, Hollywood veteran Denzel Washington, and actress Gemma Atherton.

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