Lots of chinwagging but not enough rope
THERE’S a vacancy in the world of celebrity interviewers, what with Michael Parkinson jumping ship after 200 years in the chair, citing curmudgeonly thoughts and celebrity weariness. And who could blame him? But on the strength of tonight’s interview with our own Olivia Newton- John, Michael Peschardt is no Parkie. But, then, who is?
So let’s start with who Peschardt really is, rather than who we may expect him to be. He’s an experienced journalist and broadcaster who joined the BBC as a network reporter in the early 1980s. These days he is the BBC’s Sydney correspondent.
That means he is based here and has been for some time. So despite his rounded BBC vowels and deliberately laboured delivery, he can lay claim to being one of us. It’s also why his program focuses on personalities in the Asia- Pacific region. And why, when he tells you tonight that the Byron Bay area in northern NSW ( where Newton- John owns a resort) is one of his favourite places in the world, you can take him at his word.
Celebrity interviewing is not the glamorous, piece- of- cake activity it may appear to be, as anyone who has had to put up with precious, selfobsessed little twerps in the line of duty will tell you. So a strategy is in order. Parkinson’s great gift was to lead his horses to water and let them drink from their own experience. Andrew Denton sets a clever trap through sheer intellect and meticulous preparation. ‘‘ I see now why the show is called Enough Rope ,’’ Jerry Seinfeld quipped recently.
The problem with Peschardt is that he doesn’t really have a strategy. He seems to be there just for the friendly chat any of us might have should we stumble across someone famous in the lobby of a hotel or, more likely, its bar.
Apart from providing ample product placement for the resort in question, we find out absolutely nothing about ONJ that the least ardent trivia mag reader wouldn’t already know.
She hates being gossiped about in mags but has learned, through the decades, not to be fazed by it. Go on.
She overcame breast cancer with loads of positive attitude but is aware that not everyone survives it, no matter how positive the approach. She loved her Grease co- star, John Travolta, and felt great chemistry with him from the first meeting.
To be sure, Peschardt seems an amiable fellow, who at all times remains politely English and steers well clear of obvious boundaries.
I’m not suggesting he should eat his guests for dinner ( who could forget Ruby Wax with . . . Liza Minnelli ), but surely we need more from celebrity interviewers than a chat we might have had ourselves.
Politely English: Michael Peschardt lets his subjects off too lightly