Parkinson talks down 'trivial' chit-chat hosts

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The Independent Online

The veteran presenter, who defected from the BBC to ITV last year, defended his non-confrontational interview style and hit out at the personality-led approach favoured by some of his rivals. Parkinson said that his own show, which returns this week, treats guests with "respect".

He told the Radio Times: "So much interviewing these days is about the presenter - I'm a clever boy, I'm going to be smart with people; or it's a trivial - how do you like your eggs boiled?

"We give them the respect of having thought about the interview. And what you don't see on other talk shows is that interaction and collaboration among three guests."

While Parkinson did not single out any of his rivals by name, his comments could refer to several high profile interviewers, including Jonathan Ross, who has developed an off-the-wall questioning style on his Friday night chat show on BBC1, and the comedian Frank Skinner.

Parkinson hit back at the suggestion that he was too soft on his guests, saying: "I'm still there: how many people have been doing their job for as long as I have? All the smart arses and the people who ask tough questions, where are they now?

"We're not interviewing war criminals or paedophiles, we're interviewing entertainers. What's the point in trying to pin them to the carpet with a series of brusque questions which, quite frankly, will get you told to eff off?"

Boyd Hilton, the television editor of Heat magazine, said: "I think they all have different things to offer. If he is referring to Jonathan Ross, for example, Jonathan's technique is much more informal and can elicit amazing television. He had Gerard Depardieu on and he was incredibly relaxed - it was partly Jonathan's laidback approach that got him in that mood. Jonathan dealt with it in a brilliant, light-hearted way.

"Frank Skinner is not a trained journalist or a particularly traditional interviewer, but he does get incredible interviews such as Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

"The reason they are good interviewers is they ask the questions you want to ask. As long as they do that, I don't see there is that much to complain about."

Not all of Parkinson's fellow interviewers came in for criticism. He also listed those he admires, including Jeremy Paxman, John Humphrys, Alan Whicker, and Richard Madeley.

The presenter spoke candidly about an interview that he conducted with Meg Ryan, during which the Hollywood actress said virtually nothing in response to his questions. When Parkinson asked Ryan what she would do if she were in his shoes, she responded: "Close the interview."

He admitted: "I should have closed it. But listen - it happens. She was an unhappy woman. I felt sorry for her. I think she was tired; she didn't want to do it."

Parkinson quit the BBC after 33 years to join ITV in April 2004, when his show was moved from its 10pm slot to make way for the return of Match of the Day.