Television & Radio: It's good to talk... or is it?

Words being used about The Gaby Roslin Show include `Seventies' and `Parkinson'. Adrian Turpin wonders if Channel 4 can possibly haul the chat show out of the grave

There have been spooky goings-on at Channel 4 this week. It may not come from Yorkshire, or tell anecdotes about Freddie Trueman and Geoffrey Boycott, but the ghost of Michael Parkinson is abroad, drifting around like one of those country-house spectres that puts in an appearance once a decade. For the next 10 weeks, Gaby Roslin's new live chat show will, according to its pre-publicity, "recreate for a Nineties Channel 4 audience something of the compulsive Saturday-night experience that Parkinson brought to television in the Seventies". And for an encore, presumably, Gaby will locate the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

Because that's what Parkinson has become: a Holy Grail of quality television (a status that last year's repeats of classic shows only confirmed). After Parky vacated the interviewer's chair, traditional chat - the world of Wogan and Aspel - seemed as moth-eaten as a pile of old jumpers. Enter the new chat, the David Letterman-inspired blend of stand-up comedy and cheeky questions, which in turn has influenced shows as diverse as Ruby Wax and Clive "yakkety-yak-don't talk-back" Anderson.

By the time Danny Baker gave his take on the Letterman format, it already had one foot in the grave. "Basically," said Channel 4's Seamus Cassidy, who commissioned The Gaby Roslin Show, "it [Danny Baker After All] was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. And it was made by people who had forgotten the importance of the host, people who didn't know the difference between irony and contempt." All good knockabout stuff - Channel 4 executive lashes BBC rivals - but a touch ironic after 12 months in which Channel 4 has given us Chris Evans's TFI Friday and The Girlie Show with Rachel Williams (what was that about the importance of the host?). If the modern chat show is in disrepute, Channel 4 has as much to do with it as anyone.

For a programmer trying to halt the downward spiral of soundbite-based talk shows, there's a lot to be said for Gaby Roslin (and very little that anyone in the business will say bad about her). On The Big Breakfast, she exuded both confidence and warmth, whether interviewing a Hollywood film star or a woman with 37 cats, who'd just won the lottery. Surprisingly, for anyone blonde and female and in front of the camera, she has managed to avoid the bimbo tag. It comes as no surprise that her father, Clive Roslin, is a Radio 4 presenter. But are these admirable qualities enough if you want to emulate Parky in the Nineties?

After all, the reason Aspel and Co sank without a trace wasn't its presenter but the insatiable demands of media-savvy celebrities and their agents intent on plugging their latest products. Anyone who saw the infamous edition on which the three founders of Planet Hollywood - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis - plugged their theme restaurant with utter contempt for either their interviewer or the viewing public, will have some idea of the problems that the chat-show host in the Nineties faces.

When Rod Hull's Emu attacked Parkinson it made great television because it was so unexpected. Today, it would be nothing more than another stunt, an advert for Emu videos or Emu steaks. Faced with watching weekly advertorials, Aspel and Co's audience deserted the show in droves (ratings fell from a peak of 10 million to 4.5), and its presenter walked away in disgust. The last show that made any attempt to pull the plug on plugging was, incidentally, Danny Baker's. Come back, hairy one, all is forgiven.

With these cautionary tales in mind, let's turn back to the as yet untarnished ideals of The Gaby Roslin Show. "The aim," says its editor, Andrew Davies, "is to return to guests who have a story to tell and let them tell it in full, rather than in you go, gag at your expense, quick plug and out the other end. There's a genuine need for it now. People are fed up with the Clive James/ Clive Anderson format, where guests sometimes just seem to be there as fodder."

Davies wants interviewees who will "set the news agenda rather than react to it" and complains about insulting audiences "by assuming they don't have the ability to listen. It's 9pm on Saturday. People have stayed in. They want something they can concentrate on." Guests scheduled for the first show include Ike Turner and Eddie Izzard (neither of whom are at present on the plug); and Elton John and David Duchovny - Agent Mulder in The X Files - are being lined up as a double-act later in the series for no better reason than they are, apparently, great fans of each other.

At the end of the day, however, primetime TV needs stars and stars have a tendency to make their own rules. And whether by week 10, Roslin and her team will still have the will to follow their instincts, rather than taking orders from the Hollywood publicity machine, remains to be seen. Only then will we know whether the ghost of Parkinson has finally been laid.

`The Gaby Roslin Show', 9pm tomorrow C4

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice