Television chat shows like to shout about their celebrity guests--after all, it’s their bread and butter. But apart from the prospect of seeing them off-script, it’s become rare for stars to make any truly memorable appearances. Media training and pre-vetted questions can be the enemy of spontaneity. Instead, in the UK at least, it’s often the hosts who create the headlines.
From Paul O’Grady’s channel-hopping to Parky’s retirement, Lily Allen and Charlotte Church’s attempts at the driving seat to Graham Norton replacing Jonathan Ross, and Piers Morgan seemingly sinking stateside, it seems the media loves the endless chat-show merry-go-round. Yet all the while, over on Channel 4, somebody has been quietly getting the formula exactly right.
Alan Carr’s Chatty Man is currently in its fifth series and while Carr's clearly not to everyone's tastes, it shows every sign of staying for the long haul. There’s nothing radically new about the format--a spot of stand-up is followed by a chat with at least three guests, ending with some live music.
Wonky teeth, glasses and moobs don’t usually scream “TV”, but Alan trades on his appearance by making fun of it. (And then acting all hurt if somebody else joins in). While some find his voice grating, we find it strangely compelling. His over-enthusiasm seems sincere and his raucous laugh is ashamedly infectious.
American celebrities seem to find interacting with a host who affects saying whatever comes to mind liberating. He’s very quick-witted with a gift for a verbal comeback, and he listens and seems genuinely interested in guests, unlike a certain Mr Ross.
While Carr's former co-star Justin Lee Collins languishes in uninspired formats over on Channel Five, Alan’s very British, playful approach sees him go from strength to strength. He’s come a long way from the call centre, and we're rather glad he has.