TV: Graham Norton Show So Television Episode 8.7 BBC One

Bloody Hell

Graham Norton was understandably excited about the line-up for episode 8.7. Barry Manilow seemed like a big draw. And – in keeping with  Justin Bieber’s appearance in 8.6 – fitted the increasingly obvious criteria for the top billing. Whoever it is must have weird, slightly freak-show characteristics.

Maybe I’m being a little mean about Manilow. He is after all a multi-millionaire, famed for ballads which have over the years broken many middle-aged housewives’ hearts. Or is that description itself as tired a cliche as the look Manilow himself sported on the sofa?

He is a fascinating character, not least because hardly anything above his top lip actually moves when he talks. Whoever it was who did work on Manilow’s face, they’re obviously not as good as Joan Rivers’ facial architect. Manilow’s relative quiet demeanour and slightly frail posture – he’s a good deal taller than I realised – makes the unnaturally young look incompatible with his age.

That doesn’t make his appearance on the Graham Norton Show pointless or wrong or dissatisfying. Quite the contrary in fact. There are limited outlets for global superstars and what few there are there are even fewer which expose some form of reality. Like Bieber last week, the audience is left with a nagging doubt: that we don’t actually understand the real person beneath the celebrity veneer, even though what we’re seeing is probably as close to real life as the guest in question leads anyway.

The real star of this particular show was stand-up comedian and panel show regular Sean Locke. At various points, Locke’s dry humour succeeded in both cutting through the glimmers of pizazz emanating from the other end of the sofa and acting as the perfect foil to crossover ‘classical’/’pop’ singer Katherine Jenkins who makes my blood boil. In case you’re wondering why she was on, she’s promoting the Doctor who Christmas Day episode because .. she’s in it.

Locke’s rant on people who complain about TV at first seemed a little dated. On reflection, it perhaps underlines how compliance still haunts entertainment shows like Graham Norton to the point where some of the joy can be bled out of the creative process.

If that is the case, then the ‘realistic celebrity appearances’ such has been displayed during this series of the Graham Norton Show might continue to be ensured by careful selection of guests. Such a strategy certainly seems to be paying off thus far. I’ve certainly moved on from being irritated by the constant promotion – in fact, it’s dealt with just the right amount of humour now.

Nice opening sequence too – the Copacabana thing. Shame about Ann Widdecombe though. She’s great entertainment. But I’m getting a little sick of seeing her everywhere. And, I don’t even watch Strictly Come Dancing. I suspect someone somewhere probably insisted.

:: Watch Episode 7 of the Graham Norton Show via the BBC Programmes website.

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