Graham Norton (Totally Saturday) Interview

Graham Norton brings his trademark wit and friendly banter to Saturday evenings with Totally Saturday on BBC One from 6th June 2009, as he gives viewers a new show full of unpredictable excitement, along with special guests, for all the family.

Totally Saturday cheekily turns the tables on members of the audience as it gets hold of their possessions and puts them centre stage. No-one is safe and their lives could be laid bare in front of millions of viewers.

You've gone from doing the Eurovision Song Contest straight into Totally Saturday, so it's clearly a busy time for you...

Eurovision went really well, the best in years, I think. It was a nice one to be at and the Russians threw everything at it, I enjoyed doing it. I've now got two more chat shows to do and then it's straight into Totally Saturday, which is a big, fun, family-friendly entertainment show. The hook is built around people's stuff. We're not talking about just a blouse or something ... viewers could end up seeing their car driving into the studio or their sofa appearing. We then laugh at their car or sofa, but also use it as a kind of springboard to a game where someone in the audience could win money, a holiday, or get the chance to meet their favourite star. The show is live, so people at home can join in. There's a game called the hamster run and, if they register on the Totally Saturday website, I can phone them and they can play a game via the telephone with someone in the studio where both could win money.

How long has this show been in the pipeline?

We've been talking about doing a show like this for quite some time and we did a pilot a couple of months ago. I really enjoyed the pilot and it seemed to go well, so I'm very excited about doing it.

Why do you think these big entertainment series are so popular?

It's feel-good telly for the whole family, very upbeat and it's not too taxing. You don't have to follow a story and granny won't be going: "Who's he? Why's he in there?" Hopefully, it's the sort of show adults can watch and laugh at without feeling stupid, and the kids can watch without going: "Oh God, not a dull grown-up programme."

Are you surprised by your progression from doing some pretty edgy material to becoming a top family entertainer? Was that the plan?

I left Channel 4 because I'd done that and I quite fancied a go at a big, shiny-floored, entertainment-world type of show. I've been very lucky since coming to the BBC that I've had some success and some of the shows have done well.

What are the skills you need as a presenter to make this kind of show work?

I've no idea, really. I just show up on a Saturday, have a shave and put on a shiny suit. I say "hello" and after an hour I say "goodbye"! My job is kind of to drive it, I suppose, and make sure it finishes on time. I'm also there to reassure someone who gets a surprise and might be a bit nervous and make sure nobody hurts themselves, that kind of thing.

Who do you look up to as the greats of entertainment and what have you learnt from them?

Bruce Forsyth is really good, an absolute marvel, and Terry Wogan makes it look so effortless. I also used to enjoy Bob Monkhouse – a very different performer to Bruce and Terry, as all he cared about was the next gag, but he was a proper working comic to the day he died. I enjoyed their shows as a kid, just as a viewer, but I never thought of being like them. I always wanted to show off, but I thought that would be by being an actor. You do kind of go to your grave a failed actor, but I've been lucky enough to dabble a bit and this year I've been in the West End in La Cage Aux Folles. When it came to chat shows, I always thought I'd be the guest not the host. But, as it turned out, I really enjoy hosting.

Do you prefer to work spontaneously with a lot of ad-libs or with a more carefully prepared script?

It's a bit of both really. The nice thing is that Totally Saturday is live, which gives me the freedom to mess around, and I think the audience enjoys that. But then, as a performer, it's also nice to know you've got somewhere safe to go to with the show. And, at the end of the night, you know you're on solid ground and can return to the autocue and start reading.

What are the prospects for Totally Saturday to have a longer run?

We're doing this for seven shows through the summer and, obviously, we'd like it to take off, be a big hit and come back again. As a team, we're also very aware that it is hard to get Saturday nights right – it's a very fickle part of the week, so it's fingers crossed. But we're all behind it and, as I say, the pilot went very well. If it's as good as that then I'll be delighted.

Do you feel the pressure?

There is a pressure in that you want to do your job as well as you can. Does it keep me awake at night? No. It's telly [he laughs], it's an hour of telly... there are many hours of telly on many channels every day and every night. If you don't like our hour... sorry... do something else, get over yourselves and calm down.