No gimmicks as plain-speaking Parky returns

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He has never said so directly, but Michael Parkinson has always believed he was the "best bloody interviewer in the world" and next month he returns to the small screen in his long-awaited comeback series.

It has been 15 years since the silver-haired Yorkshireman hosted a chatshow, but the original format remains unchanged. He has promised a return to proper conversation with none of the gimmicks and endless plugs that have characterised similar shows in recent years.

"I have always believed the talk show is like a successful dinner party, where the viewer pulls up a chair and looks over my right shoulder at someone they always wanted to meet," he said.

Among the guests waiting to be grilled when the show returns on 9 January are Sir Anthony Hopkins, Barry Manilow and the comedian Paul Merton, whom Parkinson has said he rates as the funniest man alive. Elton John has also agreed to appear, as have Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor.

The BBC approached Parkinson, 62, more than a year ago, after a succession of high-profile talk shows on all channels received a lukewarm reception. Parky regularly attracted 12 million viewers to his programme between 1971 and 1982.

"They always say so-and-so is going to be the next Parkinson, but how can they be when they don't understand what I understand about the talk show?"

"For me the secret is being a good listener and I'm looking forward to the new series immensely."

Parkinson, who started his career with the Barnsley Chronicle, said there was no difference between a reporter and an interviewer.

"It's the same job really. A talkshow host is a reporter. His job is to elicit answers and information from a guest. The only difference is the talk show host has to do it while tap dancing," he said.

His routine before a show will also remain unchanged. No alcohol the day before and always writing the name of his guest on a clipboard - just in case his mind goes blank. "I even wrote down Bing Crosby's name. It was a superstition ever since I couldn't remember John Wayne's name during a broadcast. I just kept thinking Duke. I knew it wasn't Duke Ellington but I couldn't think which Duke it was."