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Would You Rather? with Graham Norton

Modeled after the panel shows of TV's infancy, "Would You Rather?" is a bit of loopy fun, even if it tests how charitably one wields the term "celebrity" in assembling participants to kick around absurd questions each week. Graham Norton can be an acquired taste, but the made-in-the-U.S. program proves as breezy as it doubtless is cheap to produce, and ought to be seamless companion to the host's weekly show. So would I rather watch this or paint dry? The former, but given the production values, the distinction is relatively minor.

Modeled after the panel shows of TV’s infancy, “Would You Rather?” is a bit of loopy fun, even if it tests how charitably one wields the term “celebrity” in assembling participants to kick around absurd questions each week. Graham Norton can be an acquired taste, but the made-in-the-U.S. program proves as breezy as it doubtless is cheap to produce, and ought to be seamless companion to the host’s weekly show. So would I rather watch this or paint dry? The former, but given the production values, the distinction is relatively minor.

Far from setting up moral dilemmas, the writers merely seek to outdo themselves with silliness, providing the four actors and comics in each episode an opportunity to riff. Like “Whose Line is It Anyway?” (another U.K.-to-U.S. import), Norton awards meaningless “points” for the best answers, all in front of a giddy studio audience.

In the half-hours previewed, the questions were uneven, to say the least, and tolerance for choices like “Eat dog food for a year; or get shot in the knee” or “Eat a baby; or be eaten by a giant baby” probably depends one’s state of mind at 11 p.m. on a Friday.

As for the panelists, the full roster includes Alan Cumming, Stanley Tucci, Whoopi Goldberg and Cyndi Lauper (strategically spread out to mitigate the “I don’t recognize any of these people” factor); a couple of “30 Rock” cast members; and any number of comedians. (Frankly, most members of the last group could have been randomly pulled off street corners, but let’s take BBC America at its word.)

So lightweight the show might fly away if not tethered down, the concept’s interesting, broadly speaking, from what it represents. Panel shows have more recent history in the U.K. than the U.S., but the fitfully amusing give-and-take suggests with the right talent, providing simple cues and letting them riff has comic potential — and not incidentally, is about the most inexpensive programming imaginable.

All told, something like “Would You Rather?” boils down to whether original fare — no matter how low octane — is preferable to reruns and (in BBC America’s case) international acquisitions. For those employed by such shows, that one’s a no-brainer. As a viewer, it’s a somewhat tougher choice.

Would You Rather? with Graham Norton

Series; BBC America, Sat. Nov. 5, 11 p.m.

  • Production: Filmed in New York by So Television. Executive producers, Graham Stuart, Jim Biederman, Graham Norton. 30 MIN. Host: Graham Norton
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