Lots of chin­wag­ging but not enough rope

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

Po­litely English: Michael Peschardt lets his sub­jects off too lightly

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