Welcome to another edition of “My 70’s TV Childhood.” This blog and our podcast celebrate the essence of growing up in 1970’s Britain, where television played a pivotal role in our lives.
This week we wanted to honour the legendary TV chat show host, Michael Parkinson, who sadly passed away. While we join the nation in mourning this immense loss, it was so important to us to celebrate the indelible mark “Parky” left on British culture.
Michael Parkinson was born in Cudworth, near Barnsley, on 28th March 1935. His parents, Jack and Freda, hoped he’d avoid the mines and encouraged him to read, watch films, and excel in school. This guidance bore fruit when Michael secured a scholarship to Barnsley Grammar School. Though he left with only two O’ levels, he began his journalistic journey with a South Yorkshire newspaper. His national service in the Royal Army Pay Corps saw him rise to the rank of Captain and serve as a press liaison officer during the Suez crisis. This experience ignited his ambition to transcend local press. His autobiography captures this sentiment, stating, “I wanted to be them. It was no good going home and covering local bingo winners.”
His career trajectory took him to The Manchester Guardian, the Daily Express, and eventually to Granada, where he presented a film review show, “Cinema.” His big break, however, came with the BBC. A humorous anecdote from his Granada days recounts how he left behind a drawer full of blank restaurant and hotel receipts, which his colleagues later dubbed the “Parkinson Bequest.” In July 1971, “Parkinson” debuted on our screens, becoming a Saturday night staple for over a decade.
My introduction to Michael Parkinson was gradual. I recall my parents sneaking back into the living room towards the end of “Match of the Day” to catch “Parkinson.” It was this routine that piqued my interest in the show. Parkinson’s unique interviewing style stood out. He balanced probing questions with warmth, ensuring guests felt comfortable yet challenged. This approach set him apart from many modern chat show hosts. Some iconic interviews include Rod Hull and Emu in 1976, where Parky was wrestled to the ground by Emu, Muhammed Ali in 1971 discussing boxing, race, and politics, Billy Connolly in 1975 which catapulted Connolly to national stardom, and a delightful interaction with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy in 1978. While these interviews were hits, some, like the ones with Meg Ryan and Helen Mirren, were more contentious. Yet, through highs and lows, Michael Parkinson redefined the chat show genre.
Michael Parkinson’s talents weren’t limited to interviewing. He was an accomplished cricketer, an anti-apartheid activist, and a founding sponsor of the Anti-Nazi League. He also ventured into breakfast TV with TV-AM and radio with “Desert Island Discs.” However, his chat show remains his most celebrated contribution to television. From Muhammed Ali to Peter Kay, he showcased a range of personalities, leaving an indelible mark on the genre.
As we bid adieu to this television icon, we’re reminded of his unparalleled contribution to British TV. Sir Michael Parkinson, you will be dearly missed.
Thank you for joining us on this tribute episode. Share your favourite “Parkinson” memories with us on our blog at www.my70stvchildhood.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tune in next week for our second Quiz podcast, and another regular episode will land in your feed in two weeks’ time. Don’t forget to subscribe on your favourite podcast platform, rate, and review. Until then, take care and immerse yourself in the nostalgia of “My 70’s TV Childhood.”