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BBC America’s ‘Graham Norton Show’: Watch It and Weep, With Laughter
June 16, 2014  | By David Bianculli  | 5 comments

BBC America’s The Graham Norton Show is an import that’s been around for quite a while, but the show, like Norton’s guest list, keeps getting better. It could be, right now, the laugh-out-loud funniest show on TV…

The Graham Norton Show is shown here on BBC America Saturday nights, a few days after each weekly episode premieres in the U.K. Lately, BBC America has been televising the program at 10 p.m. ET, but this weekend moves it back to 11 p.m. ET, to accommodate the prime-time premiere of its new comedy faux documentary series, Almost Royal.

No matter where it airs, though, you should find it.

Norton has more than earned a high-profile prime-time slot of his own, as well as whatever scheduling moves can maximize his exposure to American viewers. BBC America has a crown jewel on its hands, and it’s a discovery that Norton’s viewers, and his guests, usually realize after a single giddy visit.

One recent show included Bill Murray, Matt Damon and Hugh Bonneville, all there to promote their movie The Monuments Men, sitting on the same couch and knocking back glasses of champagne as Norton asked truly oddball questions. The atmosphere was so laid-back that “casual” doesn’t begin to describe it. At one point, Bonneville, best known as the imperious Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey, stood up and excused himself to go use the bathroom. That, for me, was a viewing first.

“By the way,” Damon told Norton near the end of that program, “this is the best time I’ve ever had on a talk show.” And that was no hyperbole – during the hour, he, Murray and Bonneville all wiped away tears of laughter, and had giggle fits, as Norton questioned one of them about something unexpected, or embarrassing, or both.

Today (Monday) on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, I review Norton’s show, and provide enough clips, I hope, to persuade newcomers to tune in to watch him on BBC America. One of the hallmarks of The Graham Norton Show is that he usually brings out all his guests at once, which makes them have to interact with one another, whether they’re used to sharing the spotlight or not. And in Norton’s hands, the results often are, just as with his guests, giggle-fit funny.

When Judi Dench and Elton John share the same couch, a story emerges about one of them at an infamous London gay nightclub – and it isn’t Elton. When Tom Cruise and Seth MacFarlane share the same couch, MacFarlane makes Cruise roar with laughter by doing Liam Neeson’s telephone speech from Taken, but in a different, very familiar voice.

And when Emma Thompson takes over the questioning of British singer Robbie Williams about the birth of his daughter, she elicits what may well be the most riotously unexpected and unflinchingly honest answer ever uttered on a TV talk show. That, and more, can be heard on Fresh Air, and is available starting late this afternoon on the Fresh Air website.

And that’s only the start of it. Another show, seating Paul McCartney next to Katy Perry, turned into a conversation where, in trying to flatter him, she ended up complimenting him for not being dead.

McCartney played it with perfect deadpan disapproval, and the young pop star kept digging herself deeper – especially once she started comparing her own record of Number One singles to those of The Beatles.

It was a wonderful show, as most of Norton’s turn out to be. His guest roster, most weeks, is a mix of familiar celebrities, British artists less known here in the States, and a musical performer, who may or may not join the others at the couch before or after. Lady Gaga certainly did, and her appearance, too, was quite memorable.

This Saturday, Norton’s guests include Samuel L. Jackson and Keira Knightley. Now that you’ve read this, listen to Graham Norton on Fresh Air, then watch him on BBC America.

Just like Matt Damon, you’ll have the best time.

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I watched Michael Parkinson's Show, with, on separate occasions, Cher and Jennifer Lopez, both of whom,during the show, expressed surprise at how much they were enjoying being there, in contrast with their experiences in America...
Jun 17, 2014   |  Reply
I just went onto the BBC America website to see what videos they had for viewing. While I don't spot any full episodes, they do have a collection of clips, 8 minutes worth for the most recent program. The URL is http://www.bbcamerica.com/the-graham-norton-show/videos/
Jun 17, 2014   |  Reply
I love The Graham Norton Show I was yelling at my radio yesterday as I said "did you see Seth MacFarlane making Tom Cruise laugh!" you talked about the episode seconds later! I love how every guest is on at the same time its not just because you get stories out of them you may have never heard but just chating about life is so much better then answering the same three questions in the same 4 mins on every other talk show. no long monoloughe no silly games just famous people having a good time. If I had a talk show this is how I would run it!
Jun 17, 2014   |  Reply
David - Graham Norton is being bumped to 11:00 by "Almost Royal," not "The Royals." You'll scare people away thinking it's something deadly boring about the Windsors! I'm hoping the show is as funny as the teasers. And I totally agree about Norton - great show.
Jun 17, 2014   |  Reply
Denise Dempsey
My favorite part of the show is the Red Chair! The person in the chair tells a story;and at any part (sometimes even when they tell where they're from or occupation) if Graham doesn't like the story he pulls a lever and they flip over.
Jun 16, 2014   |  Reply
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