Media analysts have commended BBC presenter Graham Norton for not demeaning himself with undignified attempts at humour while presenting ‘Over the Rainbow’, a show in which young hopefuls compete for the role of Dorothy in a West End production of The Wizard of Oz. However, the BBC has come in for criticism for putting the 46-year-old bachelor in a potentially embarrassing position.
‘I understand that men who are a bit like that are known in some circles as ‘friends of Dorothy’ because of their apparently universal admiration for the late Judy Garland,’ thundered Daily Express television critic Ross Benson.
‘One hears certain rumours about Norton’s private life and if they are true I don’t condone it, but what an appalling situation for him to be put in. How he manages not to use the term at every opportunity is beyond me. His iron self-control is an example to us all.’
Norton, who is unmarried, is known for his flamboyant dress sense and sometimes arch witticisms. He has admitted that his close involvement in the sometimes emotionally charged serial has brought him into close friendships with some of the pretty teenage girls competing for a stab at stardom.
However, there has never been a hint of scandalous behaviour on his part from the young contestants. Nor has Norton, who has never been romantically linked with any of his female colleagues, made any comments on air that might inflame the situation.
‘You really would have hoped that those charged with our licence fees would have put a bit more thought into this,’ said Sir Gerald Bryant, Conservative MP for Shropshire North-West, who is calling on David Cameron to review BBC funding as soon as the new government is in place.
‘I mean, suppose he really is a bit, ahem, you know, what are the BBC going to have him do next? Front a show to find the best Nancy for a production of Oliver?’