Saturday, January 14, 2012

Norton my watch: Madonna meets Graham

The most useful thing about last night's Madonna appearance on the usually quite-good Graham Norton chatshow was it demonstrated how well the regular format works. All the guests, on stage for all the programme, makes something watchable.

Madonna, though, didn't have to share. This, in itself, was distracting. Why was Madge given the sofa to herself? Was that an offer from Norton's side? That seems unlikely; stars bigger and better than Madonna have squeezed in alongside others.

So was it a demand from Madonna, or her people? Was the cost of getting her on the show an edict that she wouldn't be sitting alongside, say, Nick Knowles and Mark Watson for the duration?

If so, it was a terrible deal for both sides. Shorn of the usual dynamic, Norton's show dragged like the late-period Jonathan Ross on in the same slot used to. For Madonna, she visibly relaxed and her performance improved when she did get some team-mates - the stars of her Wallace Simpson film were brough on towards the end. Madonna, and the viewers, were thankful for the assistance.

Oh, and what a film she's made. If the two tiny clips from WE had been chosen to try and fight against the early notices, they didn't choose well. Clip one was all spinning headlines and newsreel establishment, like the worst sort of wartime potboiler; the second featured stilted dialogue, horrible editing and a ballroom of people dancing to different music from the one on the soundtrack. The suspicion is that Andrea Riseborough took the role as a bet to see if her acting could breathe life into anything; the sense is that she's lost that bet.

Madonna was unintentionally hilarious when talking about making the film, suggesting that she was worried that she might somehow upset the Royal Family by telling a story about the former King. Odd, given that she did so much research it never occurred to her that ITV's 1978 Edward And Mrs Simpson series might have been the point where the Windsors figured that the tale was in the public domain.

There was an awkward sequence with two Italian fans who create Madonna dolls; to be fair to the pop star, I think she was trying for ironic, warm amusement but - curiously unable to show emotion on her face - she spent most of the segment staring at these two men who clearly adored her as if they were gun-toting simpletons.

Being mainly designed to try and drag WE out the dumper, there wasn't very much about music; everyone pretended they hadn't already heard the MDNA album title and pretended that it was a clever rather than desperate idea.

They did touch on piracy, though, Graham and Madge clumping through what sounded like a prearranged trot through 'these people say they're my fans but they access my music illegally' set-piece. This was the biggest failure of the hour; surely, surely, any organic discussion of piracy where a millionaire announces that she's had a bloke thrown in prison for the "criminal offence" of having one or two of her tunes before he should demands some sort of follow-up question. Or at the very least, a cheeky 'if he's heard the song before the production goes on, surely he's suffered enough?'

Instead, this looked like a handing of a chunk of primetime BBC One to a businessperson to push a certain political line on piracy which went totally unchallenged.

The big question, then: Madonna on the show, a new album in the offing - what sort of song did she do?

None, of course. Emili Sande was dragged on to do the performance. Madonna is Madonna. You don't think she's going to sing for her supper, do you?

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