Broadcast legend and ‘the greatest interviewer of our age’ Sir Michael Parkinson dies, age 88

Aug 18, 2023
In a testament to the profound impact he had on the world of broadcasting and the lives he touched, tributes to Parkinson poured in from fans and fellow celebrities from all corners of the world. Source: Getty Images.

The world has sadly bid farewell to broadcast luminary and chat show icon, Sir Michael Parkinson who passed away on Wednesday, August 16 at the age of 88.

With his trademark wit, charm, and unrivalled interviewing finesse, Parkinson cemented his place into the annals of media history in a stellar career spanning decades, his death leaving a void that can never be filled.

A statement from Parkinson’s family confirmed his passing following a brief illness.

“After a brief illness Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family,” the statement read.

“The family request that they are given privacy and time to grieve.”

BBC Director-General Tim Davie also issued a statement following Parkinson’s passing, reflecting on his incredible career while stating that he “will be hugely missed”.

“Michael was the king of the chat show and he defined the format for all the presenters and shows that followed,” Davie said.

“He interviewed the biggest stars of the 20th century and did so in a way that enthralled the public. Michael was not only brilliant at asking questions, he was also a wonderful listener.

“Michael was truly one of a kind, an incredible broadcaster and journalist who will be hugely missed.”

Born Match 28, 1935, Parkinson began his career in journalism with local newspapers not long after leaving school. He worked as a features writer for the Manchester Guardian and for the Daily Express in London.

In the 1960s, Parkinson made his first foray into television, contributing to current affairs programs for both the BBC and Granada Television in Manchester.

He joined the reporting and presenting team for the daily news magazine show Twenty-Four Hours on BBC1 from March 1966 until January 1968. In 1969, he took the helm of Granada’s Cinema, a late-night film review program, where he interviewed his first major celebrity, Laurence Olivier.

In July 1971, he embarked on his self-titled series Parkinson for the BBC, which he became best known for, which ran until April 1982, and later resumed from January 1998 to December 2007.

Parkinson is said to have interviewed approximately 2,000 celebrities during his career.

In addition to his highly successful self-titled chat show, Parkinson was also involved with TV-am in 1983, alongside Angela Rippon, Anna Ford, David Frost, and Robert Kee. Parkinson anchored the weekend edition of the program until February 1984 before departing.

From 1987 to 1988, Parkinson helmed 15 episodes of Parkinson One to One for Yorkshire Television. This series of interview programs maintained the style of his earlier BBC talk show, dedicating each episode to a single celebrity guest.

He made a cameo as himself in the Halloween 1992 television drama Ghostwatch, acting as the studio link during a fictitious live paranormal investigation. The unique approach stirred controversy at the time, as some viewers believed the events depicted were real.

From 1995 to 1999, Parkinson assumed the role of host for the BBC One daytime program Going for a Song. Parkinson also appeared in Richard Curtis’s 2003 romantic comedy, Love Actually, as himself in which he conducted an interview with the character Billy Mack, portrayed by Bill Nighy.

On June 26, 2007, Parkinson announced his retirement, marking the conclusion of a remarkable chapter in the world of broadcasting.

“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,” he said at the time.

“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.”

Throughout his remarkable career, Parkinson received a number of prestigious honours and awards that underscored his exceptional contributions to the media landscape.

His remarkable service to broadcasting earned him the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2000 Birthday Honours, an accolade personally conferred by the then Prince Charles.

He was ranked eighth in the British Film Institute’s 2000 list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes and was voted number 20 in ITV’s TV’s 50 Greatest Stars.

His extraordinary achievements also led to a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in the 2008 New Year’s Honours List, a recognition he humbly accepted.

Furthermore, his significant impact on British culture was evident when the National Portrait Gallery included a commissioned portrait of him by artist Jonathan Yeo in its esteemed permanent collection in 2010.

In a testament to the profound impact he had on the world of broadcasting and the lives he touched, tributes to Parkinson poured in from fans and fellow celebrities from all corners of the world.

Parkinson is survived by his wife, Mary, and their three children, Andrew, Nicholas and Michael Jr.

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