Old-fashioned song and dance seems to be taking over Saturday nights – why do you think that is?
MEL GIEDROYC The world is such a blooming topsy-turvy, fragile, bleak place. That’s why we watch shows like Let it Shine and Strictly. People need to escape. Last year Strictly was a lifeline for me – an escape into the sequins and feathers and nonsense…
Was that because of the Bake Off furore?
MEL It was a pretty weird time. The press were camped out on my doorstep. My eldest daughter actually saw a few of them off, which I was very, very proud of. I’m not the kind of person who would court that sort of attention. I have a very private existence and I had to slightly clench my buttocks during that.
GRAHAM NORTON Did they think Mary Berry was going to come round for a talk?
MEL Yes! They were like fishermen. They had these little comedy stools and they would just sit there. It was very odd.
So a popular Saturday show has to be escapist?
GRAHAM People get a bit snobby about “popular”, but I love mainstream telly. It’s also about watching people who are good at something – there are no Honey Gs in Let It Shine, the contestants are properly talented. If I wasn’t in this show, I would watch it.
Are you creating an antidote to X Factor culture?
GRAHAM I hope so. I think the cruellest thing about some of these shows is when the contestants are promised something that’s never going to happen.
I mean there’s Olly Murs and there’s One Direction and most people do end up somewhere better than where they were, but they don’t end up where they wanted to be or where they were told they were going to be. We’re not saying to these people that they’re going to have gold records and live in a Beverly Hills mansion. We’re saying you’re going to be on a bus, and staying in digs. What we’re telling them is real.
Let It Shine is looking for the new Take That – but what about the real thing? Have you taken to Gary Barlow and the band?
GRAHAM Take That are so much more lovely than we have any right to expect. They should be monsters by now, or at least damaged. They obviously come from good homes with good parents who screwed their heads on and then sent them out into this mad world, and amazingly they came back sane.
MEL Gary reminds me of a Zen master. He’s very centred and very focused, but in a lovely way.
GRAHAM Perhaps it’s something to do with those missing years. If you get a second bite of the cherry – and a huge, bigger bite than the first time – you must go, “We are the luckiest boys on planet Earth and we’ve got no right to complain about anything. Let’s just enjoy this and love it.”
MEL They are so loved. When any of the band actually hits that stage on the show, the reaction is unbelievable.
Is it wise to prepare for unpopularity?
GRAHAM Always. When I was on the first series of my chat show I was doing a gig with someone who said, “Isn’t it great, we never have to go back on the circuit.” But I was thinking, “Not me. I’ll be dusting off that terrible material any day now.” And of course, poor guy, now I see his name on comedy club posters.
MEL Showbusiness is a cruel mistress.
Did you really think you’d be back on the circuit?
GRAHAM Well, I got quite badly burned doing [2009 entertainment show] Totally Saturday – it was awful. It became hysterical, working on a huge turkey that refused to die.
Did you have to do it?
GRAHAM Well, no – they can’t make me do something, it’s not cattle production. But at some point I thought, well, I do work for the BBC and somebody’s got to host these shows. If I could avoid everything that wasn’t a hit, I would. But that’s the nice thing about working for the BBC – at Channel 4, if the press hate your show, then they hate you. If you’re at the BBC, they hate the BBC more than you. So it kind of takes the responsibility off.
What’s it like when a show does fail?
GRAHAM Yes, Mel, what’s it like?
MEL You take these things on the chin. It’s an upsy-downsy type of venture. When you’re making the hay, it’s fantastic – but you keep in mind that it might all finish. I always go into everything totally optimistic. I think, “This is going to be absolutely great…” I’m ludicrously optimistic. I mean, actually I’ve got to get treatment for it.
So, a long life of light entertainment looms ahead?
MEL I’m such an old ham, I really am. And you’ve just got to embrace what you are.
GRAHAM It’s also what you’re good at. I don’t know if you’re the same as me, but I grew up not valuing the things I was good at. I always wanted to do the other things. Then eventually you realise, actually, not everyone can do this thing. So maybe I should.
If it all dried up, would you do Strictly?
GRAHAM It’s live, 12 million people are watching, now off you go and cha-cha? I think I might wet myself.
MEL I was asked and I said no. I love watching it so much I almost didn’t want to spoil the pleasure by being on it. And it’s tricky for a woman moving into middle age. You’re not the comedy old bag yet, which would be the joy of going on Strictly. If I did it, I’d want to be Ann Widdecombe. I’d want to be out there getting the laughs, being dragged around.
Let It Shine is on BBC1 at 7pm tonight