Simon Kelner: Parky might feel a bit chilly coming in from the cold

Kelner's view

Share

I can't read, or even think, anything about Michael Parkinson without that theme music playing in my head. For those of us of a certain age, it was the soundtrack to our Saturday nights.

Written by the organist Harry Stoneham, it signalled the moment when it seemed like the whole of Britain would be united in its viewing habit. We didn't have 120 channels, the Internet, iPads, games consoles and Twitter competing for our attention in those days, so we were able to concentrate on proper one-on-one interviewing – without gimmicks, without audience participation and without the introduction of props for comic effect. It was just Parky and his guests exchanging words, with the intention of providing entertainment through elucidation, an art that has rather disappeared these days. World leaders, movie stars, sporting icons, political figures would be happy to subject themselves to Parky's polite but persistent inquisition, knowing that they would get a good hearing.

In a career that has spanned the best part of five decades, Parky has worked for both BBC and ITV and has interviewed more than 2,000 guests, some of whom didn't have a TV series, film or book to promote. His canon goes from Muhammad Ali to David Beckham, from Harold Wilson to Tony Blair, from Bing Crosby to Justin Timberlake. He "retired" in 2007, but has now been persuaded back to the screen for a six-part series which begins next month on Sky Arts in which Parky will conduct an in-depth interview with a significant cultural figure.

Will it work? Does he still have the magic? Will an audience brought up on the risqué style of Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton warm to his bluff, understated Yorkshire charm? It's hard to know, but it's certain that this show will have have a distinct flavour; more intelligent, less irreverent and, dare I say it, more old fashioned. On that subject, he's already been written off by the journal you might reasonably expect to be supportive of a man reviving his career at the age of 77. The current issue of The Oldie has a feature entitled "What Went Wrong with Parky?", in which a writer called Jeremy Hornsby, a former colleague of Parkinson, claims that the interviewer lost sight of his serious purpose, directing the show towards light entertainment rather than journalism. I must declare an interest at this point: I have known Parkinson for a number of years – not well, I stress – and have found him always to be self-effacing, hospitable and devoid of anything you might call celebrity syndrome.

Refreshingly, he doesn't take himself too seriously and says that his career was built on the good fortune of having so many extraordinary figures in showbusiness, sport and the arts willing to talk freely and frankly. He might have a bit more difficulty this time round.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little