Master of class


The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -


DON’T get jour­nal­ist and ac­claimed tele­vi­sion in­ter­viewer Michael Parkin­son started on the mod­ern-day talk show.

The 77-year-old, who cap­tured au­di­ences’ at­ten­tion for more than 20 years as the host of his own chat show, has be­come com­pletely dis­en­gaged with the for­mat.

In fact, its mere men­tion re­sults in a ‘‘grumpy old man’’ style rant that’s al­most as awk­ward as his fa­mous Meg Ryan in­ter­view, where the movie star only gave mono­syl­labic re­sponses.

‘‘The trou­ble with talk shows nowa­days and a lot of in­ter­view pro­grams is that all you see is a nar­row band of peo­ple who just made a slasher movie or a vam­pire movie or who have writ­ten a crappy pop song or what­ever,’’ he says.

‘‘Nowa­days, talk shows, they’re de­signed for peo­ple who ap­pear on du­bi­ous tal­ent shows and celebrity shows. Peo­ple aren’t fa­mous any­more, they’re celebri­ties.

‘‘The peo­ple nowa­days who are churned out by the celebrity ma­chine aren’t worth talk­ing to be­cause they’ve got noth­ing to say.

‘‘There’s a world be­yond that where peo­ple have higher in­tel­lec­tual achieve­ment, higher ex­pectancy in what they do.

‘‘I have no pas­sion for the talk show. I’ve done the talk show.’’

And with such an ap­par­ent dis­dain for the for­mat that once made him fa­mous, it took a pro­gram of a very dif­fer­ent vein to bring the in­ter­viewer back to the small screen af­ter a fiveyear ab­sence.

His new six-part se­ries, Parkin­son: Mas­ter­class, has the au­thor in­ter­view­ing six of the world’s most ac­com­plished artis­tic per­form­ers: War Horse au­thor Michael Mor­purgo, jazz mu­si­cian Jamie Cul­lum, por­trait artist Jonathan Yeo, war pho­tog­ra­pher Don McCullin, clas­si­cal pi­anist Lang Lang, and prin­ci­pal dancer Car­los Acosta. Each pro­gram is de­signed to dis­cover how the tal­ent honed their skills and got to the top of their game, fea­tur­ing unique per­for­mances from the guests and ques­tions from the stu­dio au­di­ence.

‘‘This is a way of do­ing what I want to do in a dif­fer­ent for­mat . . . of recharg­ing my bat­ter­ies too,’’ Parkin­son says.

While the show is new and ex­cit­ing for the in­ter­viewer, it is ac­tu­ally based on an idea he had al­most 40 years ago dur­ing an in­ter­view with jazz pi­anist Os­car Peter­son in the mid-’70s.

‘‘The cam­era broke down so we’re sit­ting next to him with noth­ing to do and I just sim­ply said to him, ‘What’s the his­tory of jazz pi­ano?’,’’ Parkin­son re­calls.

‘‘Thirty days later he demon­strated it to me and talked to me about it and I thought, ‘What a won­der­ful show could be done about mas­ter­class and some­body like that who can demon­strate how and why he does some­thing bril­liantly well’.’’

Although it may have taken al­most half a life­time to even­tu­ate, Parkin­son says he is thrilled with the se­ries.

He speaks about his guests with pas­sion, ap­pre­ci­a­tion and great re­spect.

Un­like the ‘‘celebri­ties’’ that fea­ture on reg­u­lar talk shows, he says his guests are ‘‘stars’’.

‘‘Th­ese are fa­mous peo­ple with achieve­ments,’’ the English­man says.

‘‘A celebrity for me is some­one who walks from one side of a TV set to the other and says, ‘Gee, I’m fa­mous’. Some­body who’s fa­mous is some­body like Car­los Acosta, who fought through ram­pant poverty to be­come one of the great­est dancers in the world against all kinds of ob­jec­tions and ob­sta­cles.

‘‘That’s a star, that’s a fa­mous per­son – they’re worth talk­ing to.’’

But with so many bril­liant artists across the globe, you’d imag­ine nar­row­ing it down to only six for the tele­vi­sion se­ries would be in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult. Not so, though, says Parkin­son.

TRUE STARS: Por­trait artist Jonathan Yeo (above), and jazz pi­anist Jamie Cullen.

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