AN­DREW FEN­TON

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

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.

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