There was nothing like Graham Norton on American TV until Graham Norton came to America, and truthfully, there's still nothing like Graham Norton on American TV. That's mainly because it's American television. The rules are too strict to allow Norton to be himself, namely a flamboyant and outrageous talk-show host. The cable outlet BBC America brings his now-defunct British show, "So Graham Norton" to America, but I can't get that channel, and I really don't know many people who can. Meanwhile, "The Graham Norton Effect," now on Comedy Central, is a sanitized version of his show that doesn't hit the mark like "So" did.
But now, this DVD has arrived, bringing the best of his British TV show to the colonies. If you crossed Eddie Izzard with Conan O'Brien, you may come close to what Graham Norton is, but that's not even that close. Celebrities are a thousand times more relaxed when sitting opposite Norton, be they American or British, resulting in honest talk and true moments of comedy. It would be fantastic if this could happen in America, but we're simply too puritanical to accept Norton as his best. It's really a shame, because this show could be the highest-rated ever.
The highlights are framed with sequences featuring an aged Norton, looking back at his career, which, right off the bat, show you what you're in for. The clips chosen were mainly of American celebrities, seemly to appeal to American audiences, and that definitely helps when it comes to discovering a foreign show like this. Though the language barrier isn't too tough to get over here, you may find yourself stuck here and there. Usually though, the context helps.
There are plenty of clips of Norton's interviews, along with his variety-show antics, including his hilarious prank calls, web surfing and audience confessions. There were several moments that had me laughing out loud, which is something that never happens with Leno and Letterman. Norton is so at ease as host that he would wipe the floor with Leno and Letterman, if given a proper chance. Of course, if he has Queen Latifah portraying an uncirumsized penis or Dan Akroyd talking about pleasuring a woman with a motorcycle again, the ratings could suffer.
"The Best of 'So Graham Norton'" is presented in two hours of widescreen-format video, on one DVD. The menus are animated, with the show's theme music ("History Repeating" by The Propellerheads) playing. The show is broken down into 20 scene selections, which are spread over five screens. There are subtitles available, though they don't match up exactly to what is said, and a pair of bonus features.
The video is clean and crisp, with the colors reproduced vividly. That's important for this show, with Norton's flashy outfits and brilliantly decorated set. Though I've often found BBC productions to come across very soft and grainy visually, this disc is better than most. This may be because it was shot on video, instead of the usual film. The blacks are solid and stand in high contrast to the rest of the video.
The audio is delivered in simple two-channel stereo. There's no testing of the format's limits, with the most active bits being the audience's raucous applause.
There are two extras included come in the form of a pair of interviews. The first, with Norton, runs just over seven minutes, and takes place in the host's office. The chat covers the show, his favorite bits and what he's working on now. Also found in the extras is a short (2:30) interview with Betty, who is to Norton, sort of what Larry "Bud" Melman was to David Letterman. In it she talks about how she got involved in the show and pleads with Dame Judi Dench. The subtitles option is also included on the extras menu.
If you want to see celebrities being more real than you've ever seen before or just stuffed animals talking about weightless sex to Elton John, the only place you can go is "So Graham Norton." And unless you can get BBC America, you can't even go there, so your best bet is this DVD. At the low price, it's an excellent pick-up for Norton fans or even those who've never seen him, but want a good laugh. The next time you watch one of the late-night chat shows and start falling asleep, make sure to pop this filthy little alternative in your DVD player.
Visit Francis Rizzo III's blog at http://rizzonline.blogspot.com/
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.