SIR Michael Parkinson is, by common consent, one of television’s greatest interviewers and one who was sorely missed when he retired in 2007 from the chat show he’d hosted for 36 years.
Parkinson is so good, in fact, he’s more than happy to interview himself, rarely pausing in his spiel to answer a question.
The short version is: back in 1975, he asked his guest, pianist Oscar Peterson, to explain the history of jazz piano as a way to fill a break in recording.
Peterson not only explained, he demonstrated its principles in a sort of ‘‘ masterclass’’.
Almost four decades later Parky revived the idea for his new show. He has no time for ‘‘ celebrities’’ now, focusing instead on insights from artists like Jamie Cullum and war photographer Don McCullin.
‘‘ I don’t know what it’s like in Australia, but here in Britain it’s very samey,’’ he grumbles about modern chat-shows.
‘‘ The people doing interviews are not interviewers – they’re comedians.’’
Switched On put Parky’s views to comedy chat show king Graham Norton.
‘‘ These are the sort of interview shows people enjoy – they’re fast-paced, they’re funny,’’ Norton says, adding many celebrities don’t warrant hour-long chats. ‘‘ Look at Robert Pattinson, he’s a lovely guy. ‘‘ But you wouldn’t want an hour-long, one-on-one interview with him.’’
Parkinson says Norton is ‘‘ very good at what he does’’ but argues his point is true only because modern chat shows limit their choice of guest to ‘‘ Pattinson and clones of him’’.
You might wonder if, at 78 and after a five-year break, Parkinson might have become a little rusty, or have found returning challenging.
‘‘ You’re suggesting I’ve got dementia?’’ he asks, wryly.
‘‘ No. What you tend to do as you get older is to cut out the vanity of it all, you pare it down. You become more confident, more experienced, and – provided you can avoid the onset of terrible dementia – you can keep on doing it until you fall off the perch.’’ Parkinson: Masterclass, ABC1, Sunday, 10pm Questions: Michael Parkinson has turned to the arts for inspiration for his new show.