Sir Michael Parkinson was an English television presenter, broadcaster, journalist and author. He presented his television talk show Parkinson from 1971 to 1982 and from 1998 to 2007, as well as other talk shows and programmes both in the UK and internationally. He also worked in radio and was described by The Guardian as "the great British talkshow host".
During the 1960s, Parkinson moved into television, working on current affairs programmes for the BBC and Manchester-based Granada Television. He was one of the reporters and presenters on the five-times-a-week daily news magazine show Twenty-Four Hours on BBC1 from March 1966 until January 1968. From 1969 he presented Granada's Cinema, a late-night film review programme (which included his first star interview with Laurence Olivier), before in July 1971 presenting his eponymous BBC series Parkinson, which ran until April 1982 and from January 1998 until December 2007, leaving the BBC for ITV1 midway through the second run which concluded after 31 series. By his own reckoning, he had interviewed 2,000 of the world's celebrities. Parkinson was one of the original "Famous Five" line-up of TV-am in 1983, with Angela Rippon, Anna Ford, David Frost and Robert Kee. Parkinson presented the weekend edition of the programme until February 1984.
He also took over as host of Thames Television's Give Us a Clue from Michael Aspel from 1984, while in 1985, he stood in for Barry Norman as presenter of Film 85.
In 1987 and 1988, Parkinson hosted fifteen episodes of Parkinson One to One for Yorkshire Television, a series of interview programmes which continued in the style of his BBC talk show but with each episode dedicated to a single celebrity guest.
On Halloween 1992, Parkinson appeared as himself in the television drama Ghostwatch as the studio link during a fictional, apparently live, paranormal investigation. However, the cinéma vérité style in which it was shot led to complaints from viewers who believed it depicted real events. From 1995 to 1999, he hosted the BBC One daytime programme Going for a Song. He again appeared as himself in Richard Curtis's 2003 romantic comedy film, Love Actually, interviewing the character Billy Mack, played by Bill Nighy. In October 2003, Parkinson had a controversial interview with Meg Ryan while she was in the UK to promote In the Cut, which he called his most difficult television moment.
On 26 June 2007, Parkinson announced his retirement:
After three enjoyable and productive years at ITV, and after 25 years of doing my talk show I have decided that this forthcoming series will be my last. I'm going to take next year off to write my autobiography and consider other television projects. My thanks go out to all those who have worked on the shows down the years and the viewers for their loyal support and occasional kind words.
In 2007, Parkinson appeared in the Australian soap Neighbours as himself. On 24 November 2007, during recording of the final regular edition of his ITV chat show, broadcast on 16 December, Parkinson fought back tears as he was given an ovation. By December 2008 Parkinson held 458 credits as a presenter on his own and with others.
Parkinson was a flagship of the BBC's prime-time schedule, attracting top names before the chat show circuit was part of the promotional mill. He was able to interview wartime variety stars while attracting up-and-coming comedians such as Billy Connolly. He was not afraid to allow an interviewee time to be themself, sometimes, as with Fred Astaire, Orson Welles, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Paul McCartney, Muhammad Ali, George Michael, Madonna, John Cleese and Mel Gibson, devoting an entire programme to a guest who was considered especially noteworthy. Parkinson stated that "If I could save one interview from the thousands I have done, it would be the one-man show with Professor Jacob Bronowski."
He stated that the most remarkable man he ever interviewed was Muhammad Ali, and regretted never interviewing Frank Sinatra or Sir Don Bradman.
Parkinson returned to hosting television in November 2012 with his new show Parkinson: Masterclass on Sky Arts.
Parkinson took over BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs for the 1986 series after the 1985 death of its creator, Roy Plomley, whose widow was unhappy with Parkinson replacing him. After six shows, he was criticised by the BBC Board of Management for "a Yorkshire bias in the choice of castaways" despite the fact that only one of his guests was born in the county. Parkinson claimed that the criticism was "a rearguard action by the establishment against the perceived desecration of an institution by an outsider". Parkinson stayed for two years until handing duties over to Sue Lawley.
Between 1994 and 1996 he hosted Parkinson on Sport on BBC Radio 5 Live. Between 1996 and 2007, he presented a morning show on BBC Radio 2 called Parkinson's Sunday Supplement; it featured newspaper and entertainment summaries with the help of journalists and a lengthy interview with a media personality. These were interspersed with music that demonstrated his penchant for jazz and big band. In October 2007, a few months after announcing his retirement from his television series, Parkinson said his radio show would also end. The last programme was broadcast on Sunday 2 December 2007. Parkinson presented a mid-morning programme on London's LBC Newstalk 97.3FM. Parkinson was considered responsible for the promotion of jazz singers to a more mainstream audience during the run of his BBC radio show.
Parkinson's first article for The Sunday Times Colour Section, "Living in a Museum" (about the Suffolk village of Lavenham), appeared on 8 July 1962. In 1965, The Sunday Times invited him to write a regular sports column, drawing on characters from his days in cricket and football. These Sunday Times pieces and his articles for Punch magazine later formed the basis for two books, Cricket Mad and Football Daft. In the 1980s, Parkinson wrote a series of children's books called The Woofits about a family of anthropomorphic dog-like creatures in the fictional Yorkshire coal-mining village of Grimeworth. The books led to a TV series, which he narrated. He wrote a sports column for the Daily Telegraph and was president of the Sports Journalists' Association.
His autobiography, Parky, was published on 2 October 2008 by Hodder and Stoughton. In April 2009, Parkinson wrote about the recently deceased Jade Goody in the Radio Times, and described her as "barely educated, ignorant and puerile," adding: "When we clear the media smokescreen from around her death, what we're left with is a woman who came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain today." Bishop Jonathan Blake, who had presided over Goody's wedding, took exception to Parkinson's comments.
In 1971, Parkinson was nominated as a candidate for the position of Rector of the University of Dundee. In one of the closest-ever contests for that position, he was very narrowly defeated by incumbent Peter Ustinov after two recounts. The result was controversial, as it was alleged earlier results indicated Parkinson had won, and a further recount should have taken place to confirm the result. As a result, pressure grew for the poll to be rerun. While the university decreed that the original result was to stand, a new poll was organised by the Students' Association, which also featured the candidature of a goat. However, this time Ustinov won a decisive victory over Parkinson, the goat, and Paul Foot.
Parkinson is on the cover of the 1973 Paul McCartney and Wings album Band on the Run. Paul McCartney told Parkinson that he would appear on his show if Parkinson appeared on the album cover, although it was not until 1999 that McCartney fulfilled his promise.
In 2005, Parkinson appeared with comedian Peter Kay on the music video of the re-released "Is This the Way to Amarillo" for Comic Relief, which became a number one single.
On 29 September 2008, Parkinson launched his website, which included online interviews with Nelson Mandela and British comedian Rory Bremner. The site also includes a blog, giving Parkinson's views on news events as well as information about his compilation album, Michael Parkinson: My Life in Music, featuring favourite songs performed by Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé, Dionne Warwick and others.
Parkinson gave the keynote address in Sydney on Australia Day 2011, the first non-Australian to do so. Parkinson used the publicity surrounding his Australia Day appearance to promote the abolition of the Australian monarchy.
After finishing his talk show, Parkinson appeared in commercials for SunLife Guaranteed Over 50 Plan life insurance, stating that he liked "its no-nonsense approach to business". His role in advertising the scheme was criticised by financial journalist Martin Lewis, who argued in 2012 that the plan was "poor value" for customers.