No un­pleas­ant stuff down at Club Parky

Parkin­son 10.15pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Ian Cuth­bert­son

DIG­NI­FIED is the word I’d use to de­scribe vet­eran in­ter­viewer Michael Parkin­son, who has been pre­sent­ing a show pretty sim­i­lar to this one since 1971. His style has al­ways been to coax witty anec­dotes and sto­ries from celebri­ties for our amuse­ment, more in the man­ner of a din­ner party host than a hard- hit­ting jour­nal­ist.

This is the core of his ap­peal, so it’s no good lam­bast­ing him for not go­ing in hard like, say, Richard Car­leton, who fa­mously in­ter­ro­gated Bob Hawke when he ousted Bill Hay­den in 1983 thus: ‘‘ So how does it feel to have blood on your hands?’’

No, Parky is a softly, softly grandad. In­deed, tonight’s episode is like a gath­er­ing at a gen­tle­men’s club, if such things still ex­ist. Mu­sic is pro­vided by that whip­per­snap­per Paul Si­mon who, at 66, is the youngest man on the show.

Michael Caine, 74, opens pro­ceed­ings with rem­i­nis­cences about his nine years in reper­tory. He is most elo­quent when talk­ing about be­ing true to him­self, keep­ing his cock­ney ac­cent and so on.

And what, re­ally, do view­ers want to see? Do they want to see the man erect im­pen­e­tra­ble de­fences un­der prob­ing ques­tion­ing about his mar­riage, his drug and al­co­hol habits or his pro­fes­sional be­tray­als? Or do they want to see a re­laxed older man, chin­wag­ging amus­ingly with an el­derly col­league, open­ing up only as far as he deigns to?

I’m guess­ing that Parkin­son would have been washed away on the tide decades ago if the for­mer re­ally was the name of the game.

Those who ob­serve the chronol­ogy of cul­ture will be­come quickly aware that this se­ries is not ex­actly fresh. In news­pa­pers, to­day’s in­spi­ra­tion has al­ways been to­mor­row’s fish wrap. Television doesn’t date quite so quickly but it does show its age. A re­cent Parkin­son fea­tured a truly gor­geous in­ter­view with The Queen star He­len Mir­ren. Un­for­tu­nately, it went to air here long af­ter Mir­ren had won an Academy Award for her per­for­mance, which made Parky’s as­sur­ances that she was likely to win sound ridicu­lous.

Sim­i­larly, tonight the old grey fox gets Caine to elab­o­rate on The Pres­tige, long gone from our cin­ema screens and now sub­ject to DVD re­views by fel­lows such as me.

But the heart of the show tonight is the mirac­u­lous per­for­mance, as singer and in­ter­vie­wee, by 80- year- old Tony Ben­nett. Ap­par­ently he has al­ways re­fused to sing I Left My Heart in San Fran­cisco on TV un­til this oc­ca­sion, when he lets us have it with both eyes twin­kling, great tone and the im­pec­ca­ble tim­ing only vet­er­ans can pos­sess. He is in ex­cel­lent com­pany.

Softly, softly: Michael Parkin­son’s style hasn’t changed much since 1971

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