Graham Norton reflects on 20 years of chat shows

The BBC One chat show is a crucial stop on the promotional tour for stars who are launching a new film, book or album – but you also get the impression it’s the one they most enjoy.

Jessica Chastain made a point of saying it’s her “favourite show” as she sat down on the famous red couch earlier this year. Matt Damon declared his appearance “the most fun I’ve ever had on a chat show”. Norton’s is the sofa of choice for Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson and Tom Hanks whenever they’re in town.

But perhaps the key reason for the show’s success is the combination of the celebrities who appear. It’s hard to forget June Brown and Lady Gaga, or Miriam Margolyes with Will.I.Am. The chemistry (or lack thereof) is something that often takes Norton himself by surprise.

“Usually you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he tells BBC News. “You can only cook it so much, you line up those ingredients, and you don’t know whether you’re going to poison the nation or delight them with the lovely confection!

“Those combinations on the couch, they’re pre-determined or pre-mediated to an extent… but there’s an alchemy on the night that you just can’t predict.”

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