Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 08:22 UK

Norton takes the Eurovision mic

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

"It'll be me, not him - I won't be doing a Terry Wogan impression," insists Graham Norton.

Graham Norton
Norton says he is impressed by the Greek entry

The entertainer and television host is about to add another string to his monumental bow, as he becomes the UK's new commentator at the Eurovision Song Contest final.

It's hard to speak to the 46-year-old Irishman about the subject without making references to Sir Terry, who made the role his own for decades.

But Norton, known for his near-the-knuckle humour and impishness, isn't necessarily going to use the commentary box as a platform to poke fun at other countries' performances in Moscow.

"You only take the mickey out of something if it's worth taking the mickey out of. Listening to the songs, I think a lot of them are actually quite good this year.

"I'll get there and say what I see fit," explains Norton, who says he has been watching old contests and needs to know "more than the average Joe" for his new job.

'Big ask'

The final years of Sir Terry's reign were marked by poor results for the UK and predictable voting, and his 2008 swansong sounded despondent.

"It did get to Terry in the end, but he'd been doing it for 35 years, so it probably won't annoy me quite as much," says Norton.

"It's frustrating because it does take the fun out of it. The voting sequence should be very exciting, but if you know who everyone is going to vote for then it's less exciting."

The new presence in the commentator's role remains optimistic about the introduction of expert juries alongside televoting.

Norton and Lloyd Webber discuss some of this year's Eurovision songs

"Hopefully this year with the new voting there'll be more surprises, and the UK will get more votes because people take us more seriously," Norton predicts.

But he is more cautious about the prospects of Jade Ewen and her Andrew Lloyd Webber song My Time.

"Winning would be a big ask, but if we end up on the left-hand side of the scoreboard, we'd all be very, very proud and pleased to be in the top 12 or 15.

"Andrew has just written a song that he stands by, Jade sings it really beautifully. Hopefully, even if we don't do brilliantly, we can come home with our heads held high because we gave it our best shot.

"When you flick through this year's songs, Jade's stands out - it's a very clean sound compared to a lot of them," says the TV star.

Intravenous drip

While Norton is used to being an on-screen presence, he reveals that his commentary will be unseen as in previous years, apart from a possible in-vision interview with Ewen and Lloyd Webber.

But the Irishman's plans to lubricate his commentary box performance suffered a blow after he broke his ribs in a post-Baftas fall at his home.

Dana performing in 1970
My earliest recollection is Dana bringing Eurovision back to Ireland. We were rubbish at everything but we were good at that
Graham Norton

"I was planning on having a bottle of cheap vodka on an intravenous drip the whole way through, but when I opened my pain medication it said avoid alcoholic beverages.

"I'm going to be sober in Moscow. So I might be quite grumpy by the end," he explains.

Alcoholic enjoyment aside, Norton professes to be a fan of Eurovision, watching it every year and holding some formative memories of the contest.

"My earliest recollection is Dana bringing Eurovision back to Ireland [in 1970]. We were rubbish at everything but we were good at that, so it was a huge thing.

"I really do enjoy the contest," he adds. "There's something mad about it, you can't explain why you love it - you just do. I haven't got bored of it."

While the screen star has yet to deliver his first Eurovision commentary, he says that he is keen to make it a regular experience.

"If I was lucky enough to be asked to do it again, I'd do it. I'd like to get involved in another show to select our entry, as it's great to witness the journey," adds Norton.

The popular presenter will be on the spot in Moscow to see whether the UK's fresh efforts fly or flounder - including his own.

Graham Norton commentates for the UK at the final of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday 16 May, shown on BBC One from 2000 BST.



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