PREVIEW: Parkinson At 50, BBC One

On 16 June 1971, Michael Parkinson walked down those famous stairs for the first time and introduced the first ever Parkinson show.



The guests were celebrity snapper Ray Bellasario and comedy actor Terry-Thomas. Seen as a temporary ten-week filler programme, it went on to record over 650 episodes featuring interviews with over 2,000 guests and was voted by the BFI one of the top ten UK television programmes of all time.



This programme tells the full story of the humble beginnings of the show and how it rose to become an award-winning Saturday night staple, a source of water-cooler moments before that phrase had even been thought of.


It tells the story of how Michael left Fleet Street and stumbled into television at Granada, where he made his first attempt at celebrity interviewing in an encounter with Mick Jagger. Poached by the BBC, he then found himself hosting the show that would make his name, and he recounts how the success of the show was secured by convincing Orson Welles to appear, as well as how the first series was wiped, losing interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono amongst others.



It was a time when the likes of Jimmy Cagney, Fred Astaire, Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman could be interviewed in depth for the first time, though the show developed into something more than just a celebrity gabfest.


Michael reveals some tricks of the interview trade and remembers some of his favourite moments, including his encounters with Muhammad Ali and Billy Connolly, as well as some less successful meetings with Meg Ryan and Helen Mirren. He also explains his decision to leave the interview game in 2008.


Parkinson At 50 airs Saturday 28th August at 8:30pm on BBC One.