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Marshall Fine

Marshall Fine

Posted: July 23, 2009 09:38 AM

Interview: Graham Norton and Most Popular


He's one of those British comedians -- Irish, actually, but famous in England -- whose popularity hasn't quite jumped the pond, as it were, to America.

But if you're a fan of Graham Norton, then his return to American airwaves (as opposed to the broadcast of his British talk show on BBC America) is a welcome one.

The impishly sly and quick-witted Norton, who tried a frontal assault on America with a short-lived version of his British talk show on Comedy Central in 2004, has returned on the WE network, hosting a game show called Most Popular, airing at 10 PM EDT Thursdays on the WE network.

While some treasure Norton's saucy, gossipy chats with willing celebrities on his talk show, Most Popular plays to another of his strengths: his ability to get ordinary folks to open up -- and his speed with a quip when those same folks say more than they meant to.

"It's like my talk show in that way -- and there is a lot of me in it," Norton, 46, says in a telephone interview. "The idea is as old as time: a popularity contest. That's what appealed to me. It's so simple: there, done."

On Most Popular, an audience of 100 women -- with handheld voting devices -- is presented with a line-up of seven female contestants. Over the course of an hour, they winnow the group, one by one, until they pick their favorite to win a cash prize.

The first cut is the deepest: They immediately eliminate one woman based on looks alone, before any of the contestants has a chance to speak.

"On the first cut, if you're dressed trashy, the chances are you're voted off," Norton says. "Once they start speaking, the audience forms a deeper knowledge and then all bets are off."

How do contestants respond to getting the ax? Norton doesn't care to find out. Once a contestant is gone, he doesn't have further contact with her.

"I avoid them," he says. "I never meet them again. I'm not paid enough to deal with the fallout."

For the rest of this interview, click here to reach my website: www.hollywoodandfine.com.

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