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

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
The number of schools converting to academies in the primary sector has now overtaken those in the secondary sector – 2,299 to 1,884 (Getty)  

In its headlong rush to make a profit, our education system is in danger of ignoring its main purpose

Janet Street-Porter
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee