Media: Parkinson versus Wright: the chat show battle meets the generation game

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright is being groomed for a career in television that will not involve a half-time round-up. Paul McCann, Media Correspondent, asks if football is now so big that its stars no longer even have to play the game.

After his first outing as a talk-show host last week was watched by four million viewers, ITV is planning to make a new kind of sporting television star of Arsenal striker Ian Wright as soon as this year's World Cup finals are over.

London Weekend Television, which made Friday Night's All Wright, said yesterday that it was "delighted" with the striker's performance on camera, but refused to speculate on when the one-off show would become a regular item.

However, sources at the station said that the programme had been a big hit with advertisers keen to target a young audience of sports fans and LWT will be lobbying the ITV Network Centre to commission a full series.

ITV has already told advertisers that it will reinvigorate its entertainment line up to bring in more young viewers and the combination of music, celebrity chat and sports that Wright brings to television is thought to be perfect for their strategy.

The striker's show clashed with the new series of Parkinson on BBC 1 and the more established chat show host attracted double Wright's audience - 7.8 million people according to unofficial figures. But LWT still believes that it has struck gold with a new kind of format for the show.

Wright, who would be the first black chat show host in British television history, brought friends from the sporting world such as Coventry striker Dion Dublin and boxer Lennox Lewis with him to the programme. The studio audience also included a cage full of fans of Arsenal's rival team Spurs.

As well as conventional interviews with a Coronation Street starlet and boxer Prince Naseem, the show featured music from female pop group All Saints and a less conventional item in the form of a set from the club disc jockey Pete Tong.

"The feel is more like an intimate, laid-back nightclub than a chat show," a spokeswoman for LWT said. "The sportsmen on the show were doing very different things from when you see them normally. And Ian was just himself, bright and unpredictable."

LWT hopes the comparison with Michael Parkinson interviewing Billy Connolly and Sir David Attenbrough on his show as if it was still the Seventies will attract younger viewers to a rival on ITV.

The Arsenal and England striker's show was brought to LWT by producer Rik Blaxill after he produced two episodes of Top Of The Pops with Wright as the host. Wright was also tipped as a potential television star after he fielded questions from interviewer Clive Anderson with aplomb.

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