Parkinson (TV series)

Infobox Television
show_name = Parkinson

size =
caption = Series title card, used 2004–2007
format = Talk show
picture_format =
runtime = 60 minutes
creator =
country = UK
starring = Michael Parkinson
channel = BBC One (1971–1982, 1998–2004) ITV (2004–2007)
first_aired = 1971
last_aired = 2007
num_series =
num_episodes =
producer = Granada Television
imdb_id =

"Parkinson" was a British television chat show presented by Sir Michael Parkinson. It was first shown on BBC One from 1971 to 1982, totalling 361 editions. [ [ BBC Press Office biography] ] It returned in 1998, but transferred to ITV in 2004. The last regular edition, "Parkinson: The Final Conversation", was broadcast on ITV on 16 December 2007.


"Parkinson" was traditionally broadcast in a late-night slot on Saturdays. A parallel series was shown in Australia between 1979 and 1982. In 1982 Parkinson left the BBC to be co-founder and presenter on the ITV breakfast television station TV-am, where after many schedule upheavals he ended up presenting the Sunday morning programme with his wife, Mary Parkinson.

He returned to the BBC in 1995 to present a series of retrospective shows, "Parkinson: The Interviews", featuring memorable excerpts, eventually presenting a new, revived version of his chat show on BBC One three years later. However, in April 2004, ITV announced that it had "poached" the interviewer from the BBC from the autumn of that year. Parkinson said that he was sad to be leaving the BBC but that he and the channel controller, Lorraine Heggessey, could not agree on a suitable slot for his show following the return of Premiership football highlights to the BBC One Saturday evening schedule. The ITV version of the programme, produced by Granada, debuted in September 2004, with an identical set, theme tune and format to the BBC edition. Its audience was around 6m viewers. [ [,14173,1636334,00.html?=rss MediaGuardian: BBC1 makes all the right moves] ]

The most recent "Parkinson" run on the BBC (1998–2004) was one of the few recent British TV programmes that was not made in widescreen. However, his ITV show was recorded in the format with very tight close-ups.

Episode format

A typical programme included three interviews, each lasting around 15 minutes. It was customary for the first two guests to remain after their own chats to observe and occasionally participate in those that followed. Such contributions were usually made respectfully, and when invited, though this policy backfired on occasion. In addition, some Hollywood stars were honoured in receiving a solo spot, Russell Crowe being one example. On occasion, an episode featured a single guest for its entire duration if the subject was deemed to be sufficiently deserving. This was the case in 2005 when Madonna appeared as part of her "Hung Up Promo Tour"; besides her interview she performed two songs. There was usually a musical interlude at some point, featuring a current recording star. If a solo singer, he/she was accompanied by the show's musicians, who also provided the walk-on music for each guest. In the 1970s, the group was led by Harry Stoneham. The role was undertaken by Laurie Holloway in the relaunched show.

Interviewing style

Michael Parkinson always sought guests who, besides being well known, had some sort of story to relate. He then saw his job as allowing them to tell it. He did this by being open, relaxed and attentive. (He learnt very early on that in order to be an adept interviewer, he had to be a good listener.) He researched his subjects thoroughly, and, in the early shows, always had his list of questions to hand. Having guided them to an area of discussion, he rarely interrupted his guests — except to provide the occasional prompt — instead letting them expand on a particular topic. Sometimes, a person would warm to this style with unpredictable results. For example, he regards his chats with Shirley MacLaine as bordering on flirtatious. [ ABC Television: "Enough Rope" with Andrew Denton (interview transcript)] ] In his final programme, broadcast 22 December 2007, Parkinson stated that his favourite interview was with Jacob Bronowski in 1973.


By his own reckoning, Parkinson interviewed over 2000 of the world's most famous people, [ [ "Sydney Morning Herald": How to talk to anyone in the world] ] including: Muhammad Ali, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Peter Ustinov, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Redford, Tina Turner, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Orson Welles, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Bette Midler, Racquel Welch, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Kenneth Williams, Billy Connolly, Gene Wilder, Ewan McGregor, Freddie Starr, David Bowie, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Dave Allen, John Lennon, Miss Piggy, Noel Gallagher, Tom Cruise, Edith Evans, Luciano Pavarotti, Cher, Madonna, Elton John, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Shane Warne, Thierry Henry, Ricky Hatton, Rod Stewart, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, Ray Winstone, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Michael Palin, Richard Attenborough, David Attenborough, Mel Gibson, Viggo Mortensen, George Michael, Pierce Brosnan, k.d. lang, Sarah, Duchess of York, Paul Schrader, Peter Sellers, Peter Kay, Paul McCartney, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Clarkson, Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy Osbourne, Julie Andrews, Dame Edna Everage, Helen Mirren, Tommy Cooper, Judi Dench, Naomi Campbell, Tony Blair, Olivia Newton-John, Billie Piper, David Tennant, Denzel Washington,Gillian Anderson and Sandra Bullock.

During the 1970s, he attracted former big-name Hollywood stars, such as James Stewart, John Wayne, Mickey Rooney, David Niven, Gene Kelly, James Cagney and Robert Mitchum, not on the basis that they had a film to promote, but simply because they wanted a chat.

The record for most appearances is held by Billy Connolly, having been a guest on fifteen occasions. His final appearance was in Parkinson's penultimate show, broadcast on 16 December 2007. ["Radio Times" 15–21 December 2007: Goodnight... and Thank You]

Rod Hull and Emu

Much to his chagrin, the most repeated clip is of Parkinson's interview with entertainer Rod Hull in 1976. While the pair were chatting, Hull's glove puppet, Emu, continually and (apparently) uncontrollably attacked the interviewer, eventually causing him to fall off his chair. Fellow guest Billy Connolly threatened, "If that bird comes anywhere near me, I'll break its neck and your bloody arm!" Perhaps mindful of what this would mean for his professional future, Hull swiftly got his "pet" back on best behaviour. Parkinson had always lamented the fact that despite all the star guests he had interviewed over the years, he would probably be remembered for "that bloody bird". However, in an appearance on the TV show "Room 101", he got his chance of revenge when the host, Paul Merton, unexpectedly brought Emu locked in a guillotine on stage and Parkinson took his chance by beheading the puppet, saying, "Goodbye, you foul beast."

Notable moments

*On his appearance in the 1970s series, Orson Welles famously insisted that Parkinson dispose of his list of questions beforehand, reassuring him, "We'll talk.""Parkinson: The Interviews"]
*Notably reticent about discussing himself, Peter Sellers only agreed to take part if he was allowed to walk on as someone else. Once introduced, he appeared dressed as a member of the Gestapo, impersonating Kenneth Mars' role in "The Producers", and performed a number of lines in character before removing his "mask". He then settled down for what is arguably one of Parkinson's most memorable interviews.
*Richard Burton's chat had to be recorded during the afternoon, for fear that the notorious drinker would be inebriated by the evening if allowed sufficient access to alcohol. Accordingly, the audience was hastily convened and as a result, mainly comprised staff of the BBC canteen — still in their kitchen whites. Burton confessed afterwards that the view from the studio floor as he walked on made him think that the "men in white coats" had caught up with him at last.
*During Kenneth Williams' second appearance in 1973, the talk turned to politics, and particularly the "Carry On" star's trenchant views against trade unions. Williams accepted an invitation to return three weeks later and discuss these with trade unionist Jimmy Reid. The abrasive nature of their debate turned an entertainment show into something more akin to a serious current affairs programme, and the then BBC Controller, Paul Fox, directed that the programme was not to venture into that sort of territory again. However, Williams would become one of Parkinson's most celebrated guests, making a total of eight appearances over the years.
*The famously articulate Muhammad Ali launched into an extraordinary tirade — even by his standards — when Parkinson challenged him on the nature of his religious beliefs. This so surprised the presenter (as he'd thought it to be an innocuous question) that he became lost for words.
*Parkinson witnessed David Niven being physically sick in his dressing room shortly before his interview. The actor informed him that he had always suffered with nerves. However, once before the cameras, he proved to be an accomplished raconteur.
*John Conteh was on the same show as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Parkinson asked the boxer if it was true that he never had sex before a fight. While Conteh looked embarrassed, Cook chipped in with an observation for the host: "I wouldn't ask you if you have sex before a show. I can see that you have."
*When comedian Dave Allen appeared in an edition that was transmitted on Halloween, Parkinson invited his guest to read a suitably themed poem. As he did so in his familiar Irish brogue, and as the ghostly nature of the words became ever more unsettling, the studio lights were gradually dimmed, leaving just a spotlight on Allen. After completing the final line ("And now, as the witching hour approaches...") with much gravitas, he paused, before exclaiming, "What a load of crap!"
*When the show was relaunched on the BBC in 1998, the star guest on the first programme was Sir Anthony Hopkins, who provided an entertaining interview. He demonstrated his talent for mimicry by telling several Tommy Cooper jokes. The studio audience was very appreciative, and Parkinson was visibly gratified to the actor for getting his new series off to a good start.
*On the programme featuring John Prescott, his own interview was followed by one with Phil Collins. However, the UK's Deputy Prime Minister interjected frequently and at great length during Parkinson's chat with the musician. The exasperated host finally pleaded, "May I have my guest back, please?"
*Before being interviewed as a well-known comedian in his own right, Peter Kay was once a warm-up act for the "Parkinson" studio audience. In 2005, Parkinson returned the compliment by appearing alongside other UK celebrities such as Ronnie Corbett, Jim Bowen, Geoffrey Hayes and Shakin' Stevens on Kay's video with Tony Christie for their number one single, "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo".
*In 1999, Woody Allen was conspicuously uncomfortable when the line of questioning led him to details of the custody battle for his children. The writer/director became increasingly wary, eventually responding, "Why are you asking this?" Recognising that the interview may be abruptly terminated, Parkinson defused the situation by apologising and changing the subject.
*In October 2003, while in the UK to promote her film "In the Cut", Meg Ryan made a controversial appearance on "Parkinson", which resulted in negative publicity. The press accused both Ryan and Parkinson of being rude to one another. Ryan gave a few one-word answers, and after she acknowledged that she wasn't comfortable with the interview, Parkinson asked her what she would do if she were in his position now. She replied that she would "just wrap it up". Parkinson later revealed to the press that he felt her behaviour to his earlier guests, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, whom she turned her back on, was "unforgivable". [ [ Parky was a 'nut', says Meg Ryan] ] Ryan also commented that Parkinson was a "nut" and said that she was "offended" by him as he was like a "disapproving father" in his tone. [ [ "Daily Mail": Parky is a nut, says Meg Ryan] ] Some may argue that Ryan was not turning her back or being overtly rude to the other guests. However, in a 2006 survey of British TV viewers, her behaviour on the show was voted the third "most shocking" TV chat show moment ever. [ [ BBC News: Jones slap tops TV chat show poll] ]
*In an episode broadcast on ITV on March 4 2006, Tony Blair became the first serving Prime Minister to be interviewed by Parkinson and volunteered the information that he believed he would be judged by God for the Iraq war. He also told of how Cherie Blair's father (Tony Booth) had asked if he could light a marijuana joint when they first met. [ [ 'God will judge me on Iraq invasion' says Blair] ]
*Parkinson was once asked if there was anyone that he regretted never having interviewed. He replied, "Sinatra was the one that got away. Otherwise, I've met everyone I have ever wanted to meet."


Michael Parkinson announced his retirement on June 26, 2007: [ [ Digital Spy: Parky to retire after next ITV series] ]

The last regular "Parkinson" programme (the penultimate of the final series) was broadcast on ITV on 16 December 2007. An extended edition, it featured Billy Connolly, Peter Kay, Michael Caine, David Attenborough, Judi Dench, David Beckham, Jamie Cullum and Dame Edna Everage. The episode drew in 8.3 million viewers. [ [ BBC News: More than 8m watch Parky farewell] ]

The last show, broadcast on 22 December 2007, showed memorable clips from previous interviews.


External links

*imdb title|id=0168358|title=Parkinson
* [ Screenonline: Biography]

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