90’s icon, Noel Edmonds, is back on our screens and is proving a greater success than ever before. Toby Green talks to the bearded wonder about his extraordinary comeback.
It may not come as too much of a surprise, but Noel Edmonds is a pretty contented man, and he may as well be. Following a six year absence from our TV screens after the axeing of Noel’s House Party in 1999 (he denies that this time was a wilderness: “I was farming in Devon, I was running a number of companies and I was enjoying life very much indeed”) his career has been reborn after being chosen to front Deal or No Deal, Channel 4’s smash hit game show, in 2005. His positivity is obvious from the start, when i enquire how he is, his first response is: “You know what? It’s pretty good being me at the moment.”
As honest as he has been about his self-belief and success, he’s been equally truthful in addressing his lows. In various papers he has openly discussed the recent deaths of his mother, aunt and 20 year marriage. “The thing is, I would rather talk about my problems myself rather than having it distorted by tabloid journalists. I’ve had setbacks like everyone else, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that, although the image may be to the contrary, it has been tough at times. I’ve had a few ups and downs, but fortunately for me the downs have been few and the ups have been pretty high.
His latest venture is promoting his new book, Positively Happy, in which he extoils the virtue of ‘Cosmic Ordering’, a new age belief that, although not linked to any religion, involves connecting to the’ Cosmos’ so that it will use its energy to turn your desires true. The blurb on the back of book claims that “(Noel’s) belief in himself and the cosmos have brought him back to our screens in Deal or No Deal.” I asked him whether he had encountered any, god forbid, cynical reactions to his crusade. “You know what? The feedback has been extremely positive. I make it clear at the beginning of the book that I’m not an expert or a guru. We live in a challenging time: we’ve got terrorism, worries about multi-cultural Britain and people are unsettled by their neighbours. It can be really easy to be negative, and all the book says is if you can find a positive focus you will have a better time in life.”
The belief system appears to have worked wonders for him at least. He’s recently signed a new extension to his Deal or No Deal contract, and he predicts that its runaway success can be sustained with him still at the helm, at least for the foreseeable future.
“I think it would be a very brave or foolish person who could predict the show’s life expectancy, but I’m certainly having a good time and the audience reactions remains very positive. My career is completely focused on Deal or No Deal, and why wouldn’t it be? It is so successful and people have been generous about my role, so what else can I take on?”
My jumper days are happily over. I’m a complete fashion disaster to be honest; I work on the idea that fashion is cyclical and I’ll come back in.
One key, and often ridiculed. aspect of the show are the strategies that the contestants implement with which to choose the boxes that they open, attempting to add some façade of skill to what is basically a game of luck, but Edmonds denies that he is as incredulous as many of the show’s detractors about the reasons that crop up. “I love it, I absolutely love it, all the analysis and spiritualism. However as far as I can see it’s reasonable to say no system has ever worked. The only one I’ve admired is when a chap turned up with a Chinese takeaway menu, started with the prawn balls and worked his way through the sesame seeds.”
Although in its teatime slot Deal or No Deal has built up a considerable student following, most of our generation (or at least those of us who spent our Saturday nights in front of the TV) will still fondly recall Noel as the host of the, I suggest to Noel, ground breaking, Noel’s House Party.
“I think House Party has had quite an influence on the entertainment genre, I mean Ant and Dec have made no secret of the fact that on Saturday Night Takeaway they lift a lot of our ideas, and they do it very well. I did always think history would be kind to House Party and just six years on people are now bemoaning the fact there aren’t more shows like that for all the family. I’m very comfortable with it, although maybe not so comfortable about the pink and yellow thing.”
Ah yes, Mr Blobby. Apparently the chart-topping performing artist and primary mischief maker on Noel’s House Party is as detested by Edmonds himself (who owns the rights but claims not to have had any part in his creation) as by those who ever had the misfortune to be exposed to the music (after ‘Mr Blobby’ reached number one in December 1993 the follow up, ‘Christmas in Blobbyland’, managed number two) or the computer games that followed.
“I don’t think I will be forever haunted by Mr Blobby, although if I do I hope it will be because he’s still a very big commercial success” admits Edmonds. “Until recently people would shout ‘blobby blobby blobby!’ at me when I walked down the street, and now they shout ‘Deal or No Deal!’, and I’m much more comfortable with that.”
Edmonds’ entertainment legacy stretches even further back: he started off at Radio Luxembourg in 1968 before hosting, amongst many others, the Radio 1 Saturday breakfast show, Swap Shop and the recently-defunct Top of the Pops. Although he finds it sad, the demise of the latter has not come as a complete surprise.”
“The reason that it lost its appeal is pretty straight forward. The whole climate had changed, time just passed it by and I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. I have to say that ever since I stopped presenting it, it has been in decline.” I give a nervous chuckle, wondering if his self-confidence knew even greater depths. “And for once that’s with my tongue firmly in my cheek.”
He certainly recognises his own achievements and you can see why people can gain a dislike for him because of perceived arrogance, but the way he deals with his low points in his life suggests that he is simply honest about himself. However one area which he doesn’t address with confidence is his unlikely status as a sex symbol. Although I quickly apologise when I describe this status as “unlikely” he protests with a chuckle. “Nah it’s ok, you should stick with unlikely.
“I am most grateful, now that I am single, for the attention of certain members of the female sex, but I do get sent some really peculiar letters and objects, some of which I suspect have been used.” He reads my mind when he suggests we shouldn’t go into the specifics. “ I’ve got teenage daughters and they just cringe whenever I say anything of a personal nature. I’ve been asked before about the most peculiar place I’d ever had sex, and I said Warrington. I think that’s as far as Noel Edmonds can go on the subject.”
Sex isn’t the only controversial topic he regularly fields questions about, for many the ‘Edmonds beard’ is his defining feature. “Yeh it’s strange, I don’t know why people are so obsessed with my beard, I really don’t know. I always get criticisms like that though: people make reference to my height, they make reference to my beard and they make reference to the fact that I’ve got a lot of hair on my head, which I’m most grateful for. Thinking about it though, maybe it’s because changed very much down the years.”
I suggest that to distract attention from his facial hair, he should bring back the equally-notorious jumpers. “Haha, my jumper days are happily over. The show we recorded for bonfire night everyone was wearing woolly jumpers and the boxing day show has a woolly jumper gag, but I don’t participate in that any more.
“I’m happy with my look at the moment on Deal or No Deal, it has to be practical as we do three shows a day. To be honest I’m a bit of a fashion disaster and I’m very lucky that my wardrobe lady chooses all my shirts. I work on the idea that fashion is cyclical, and therefore one day I’ve got to be fashionable as things come round. It’s safer that way.”
Without wanting to sound like Noel’s biggest fan, the fact is that he is so aware of his place in ‘culture’ but refuses to underestimate his own success and talent is somewhat appealing. Like Chris Tarrant and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Noel Edmonds is synonymous with Deal or No Deal and makes it the show it is. Love him or hate him, it seems his latest ascendancy in his career is set to continue for a little while longer.
‘Positively Happy: Cosmic Ways to Change Your Life’ by Noel Edmonds is available to buy now at RRP £9.99.