By GREG DIXON
Oh God. Not another bloody chat show.
If there's a such a thing as a television God, the hateful old cow should have seen to it years ago that the modern chat show was given a timely burial in a shallow, unmarked grave.
It is, after all, a miserable form, trite, stupid and unfunny, and wholly deserving of a sudden, messy death.
But apparently there is no God. And So Graham Norton.
You may have seen this little Irish fellow before. He turned up occasionally in the late, lamented Father Ted as Father Noel Furlong, the happiest, clappiest priest in Ireland. He was, in that mad comedy, funny. But briefly.
In his own show, however, he is neither brief nor funny, simply annoying, in a trite and stupid way.
In last week's first episode, he bounced out into the stage in front of his live studio audience and announced that his wasn't a traditional chat show - no sofa, just three chairs and a poof.
The joke, of course, being that he's gay - and making him utterly traditional in terms of British comedy.
Norton's schtick, if you can call it that, is that he is camp. Like Are You Being Served?'s John Inman before him, he manages to be full of cheap, sexual innuendo and cut-price double entendre while remaining entirely asexual, and therefore entirely unthreatening to the staunchly heterosexual males in his audience. Judge for yourself how you feel about that.
The Brits, of course, have long loved this sort of thing. But from this side of the world, in the year 2002, it plays like something out of the Ark.
It doesn't help either that TV One is screening this first series years late.
Last week Norton made much of David Beckham's unfortunate experiment with his feet during a crucial World Cup game. Posh Spice was coming in to show us her arse - or David Beckham as he prefers to be known, Norton said. Ho, ho, ho.
Unfortunately, the World Cup he was referring to was the one that was played four years ago, not the one that starts at the end of this month.
Even the guests appeared to be from a previous millennium. First up was Ivana Trump who, despite all those cuts and tucks, looked to have arrived from her tomb. Fortunately she wasn't required to do very much at all.
Norton's chat with her was little more than an excuse to ask her whether she was going to go back to Donald (no, she said several times; big surprise).
She then became a prop for Norton while he rang a German phone-sex worker, a stunt, with the help of a European Parliament translator, that was merely an excuse for the aforementioned cheap sexual innuendo.
Comedian Kathy Burke was the next victim. She got to help him play with antique glove puppets, Sooty, Sweep and Soo.
Tonight there's more of the same, only this time he goes on-line with a topless web sex worker. It hardly makes this show about chat.
What all this is really about is the childlike and childish Norton getting to play camp and talk an awful lot of rubbish about nothing while the celebrity guest gets a bit of much-craved exposure and everybody gets paid.
Unfortunately it's a tradition unlikely to die anytime soon.
* TV ONE, 10pm
By GREG DIXON