Sophie Heawood: Bye, Parky. Again. Promise you won't change your mind?


Short of carrying him into a burning longship, uniting the House of Commons in a Mexican wave and lowering all TV aerials to half-mast, it's unclear what more could be done to dispatch Michael Parkinson.

Not that the veteran broadcaster is dying, as far as we know; just retiring from the telly. And the radio. For a bit. "After 25 years of doing my talk show, I have decided that this forthcoming series will be my last," he announced earlier in the year, with peculiar mathematics. For he may well have begun hosting a chat show in 1971, but he already retired from it once, between 1982 and 1998 (not to mention his move from BBC to ITV), all of which adds up to a rather gaping hole in his claims of a quarter century.

Still, the 25 years, whether real or imagined, are being celebrated with the mother of all swansongs. We have had Parky's last- but-two show (sniff), his last-but-one show (double sniff), and let's not forget the Parkinson Music Special (treble sniff), which aired last month, featuring a montage of all the bland and family-friendly entertainers you could shake a big stick at. And Rod Stewart.

And now the ultimate, final, definitive, no wait I really am going this time, and it's goodbye from him, are you missing me already, Parkinson talk show, has already been recorded and will be broadcast on 15 December. In it, the 72-year-old host enjoys the company of such luminaries as David Attenborough, Judi Dench and Billy Connolly. David Beckham dances with Dame Edna and Jamie Cullum sings "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone", a choice of song that presumably explains why we are expected to talk about Parky so much while he is still here.

Of course, that little number was once sung by Frank Sinatra, a man who had several grand retirements of his own, each time only to return. Like amnesiac canoeists, you never know when entertainers are going to come back. Take That, the Spice Girls and Led Zeppelin have all paid the bill to their cryogenics companies so they can get back on stage this month. Yet when John Peel died this all happened organically, with the nation's tributes and grief being beyond anything the man could ever in his wildest dreams have expected, according to his widow.

But Parky's kind of departure smacks a little of one of those people who fake his own death so he could come back to enjoy his own funeral. In any case, Parky says he's only off so he can write his autobiography, which surely means lots of chat show appearances of his own when it comes out, and then the whole self-promotional farrago can begin again.

It's no wonder everybody's despairing of the younger generation failing in education, getting Asbos and loitering on the streets they know they'll never make it as a rock star or a TV presenter for as long as Parky and Led Zeppelin refuse to clear the stage.

What hope for our nation's stage-struck youth, when all they can see around them is the entertainment world's equivalent of carriage clocks and engraved cuff links being handed back and forth for ever more. Young stars such as Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse seem intent on not staying with us for very long, and even the cheerier Lily Allen has recently announced that she will only release one more album as she wants to make all her money while very young while simultaneously announcing that she has got a heart murmur.

Please, all you celebrity juniors, don't disappear all at once we need you to keep the old people on the streets. And off the telly.

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