Is it controversial that Graham Norton is on the BBC? He’s certainly not the first glittery suit to appear on one of their channels, but possibly the first to pounce around in such an openly gay manner, trouncing poor celebrities with snide remarks disguised as praise while they desperately try to promote themelves from his sofa. Of course the BBC only signed up Graham Norton once he had proved himself to be a roaring success on Channel 4, once his following was large enough and granny-Britain was vaguely accustomed to him.
So far, so good. For Graham that is. Because meanwhile, over on Channel 4, Alan Carr has re-emerged with his own show Chatty Man, and it is a complete rip-off of Graham Norton’s former shows on the same channel, with a few Paul O’Grady touches thrown in for good measure. The show mirrors, minute-to-minute, the tried and tested Norton template. And judging by the jokes, like Norton, Carr has given up writing his own material and sold his soul over to the ghost-writers.
Now I like Alan Carr. Don’t we all? In fact, more than that, I follow Alan Carr on Twitter. He may be an alcoholic in the making and good God does he squeeze every camp drop out of his larynx, but we can at least relax a little in his presence. Unlike Graham Norton (where every second phrase builds a mental image of two teenage boys bent over a dressing room table, Graham behind them brandishing two table tennis bats and a blow torch), Alan Carr is family-orientated, charms the sagging mothers of this land, and whenever his jokes do become a bit sexual, you only have to look at his teeth to convince yourself he’s all jest and couldn't possibly molest.
It’s a bit sad though that Channel 4 cannot be bothered to scratch their head a little and devise a truly original show to make the most of Alan’s talent. Instead we’re all forced to watch the ‘gays can’t catch’ routine.
The Friday Night Project rocketed Alan to fame, he became a theme of Monday morning office chat, just like Graham did in the late 90s. What made The Friday Night Project exciting was its ridiculous trimmings – the jacket of cash, incredulous audience participation, Alan in the crappest of drag, not to mention the entire framework of the program which was inversed.
With Chatty Man, we’re watching So Graham Norton minus the faux-snobbery and sexual perversity. For while Graham’s humour reveals that he was once normal and knows what spaghetti hoops are, Alan’s humour is an act or normality, he talks to his viewers as if he still does eat spaghetti hoops. Alan's less class-focused and contstantly jokes about being sexually unappealing. Perhaps this is a step forward for gay men? The removal of that constant anal sex tableau on the viewer’s mind. According to The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman, this is the reason why American TV now prefers gay women to men. (Althoough as much as I love Hadley, her argument is one word - Ellen).
Still, there’s something else wrong here. Maybe it’s all a step backwards and Alan should be the one on the BBC pouring tea for Rihanna, whilst Graham should be back on Channel 4 where he can return to his so very glorious days of women playing the piccolo on their vulvas?
Or perhaps like America, we’re all just tiring of overtly-camp comics? Young gay men are increasingly straight-acting (excuse the pathetic phrase) and occasionally irritated with society’s demands on the gay man to self-ridicule.
If gay culture follows the wave of feminism, which in turn follows race relations and civil rights. Just like Chris Rock’s humour of the early 90s, taking the piss out of black culture, is no longer that amusing or necessary, I think the glitterati camp as Christmas gay man has been stamped with a shelf life.
It’s a toughy. What do you think? And excuse the excess italics in this piece, but given the content, I think I can so get away with it love.