Question: After reading all of those Jay Leno tributes — I mean letters — in your column, I have to wonder if any of these people have ever seen Graham Norton's show? As someone who previously has never seen the value of talk shows, whether it be Leno, Letterman, Ellen or Megan Mullally (except for Carson, of course — Johnny, not Daly), I found that there actually was a way to make this genre interesting once I saw Graham Norton's show on BBC America. After watching a show like that, you look at Leno and it's just so bland. The guests are basically just like one long advertisement: Announce exciting new project about guest, guest tells pre-planned "funny" story, host fawns over guest about great work, guest talks about how great the cast is, and then host introduces movie or TV clip, guest leaves or sits on couch. What am I missing here that people are so intrigued about on these shows? Whereas Graham gets some great A-listers like Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Bacon and has them doing funny things with unsuspecting people. The projects they're peddling are usually pretty secondary, yet they are more remembered. Why can't the U.S. have a talk show along those lines?
Answer: Graham Norton did have a short-lived talk show on Comedy Central several years ago, and it may be a case that his brand of giddy lunacy is just a bit much for the mainstream American audience, so could be better suited for the more rarefied atmosphere of BBC America. (I personally think he's a hoot, too, but probably not someone I'd want to visit on a daily basis.) I like Ellen's playful quality with her guests, which may not go as outrageously far as Norton but strays often enough from the usual routine to feel fresh to me. She's my current favorite talker.