The new edition of Radio Times features Ol’ Miserable Bastard, aka Michael Parkinson, whinging on yet again about how the world will be a bleaker place once he disappears off the air for good* and how he’s supposedly one a million because “the one skill I’m most proud of is that I can write”, something he shares with much of the entire world over the age of five.
There’s also an accompanying feature listing, revelation-style, who the old hobbledehoy would invite to his fantasy dinner party, including Dame Edith Evans, Shirley MacLaine, Billy Connolly (yawn), Ian McKellen and Judi Dench.
This roll call would be forgettable in the extreme were it not for the fact that, in an issue of TV Times from 1989, there’s a similarly hold-the-front-page feature, ostensibly the first in a series, asking “top name celebrities” to discuss who they’d invite to, yup, their ideal imaginary dinner party.
And inevitably the first to step up to participate in such an earnestly whimsical exercise, despite him having absolutely no programmes on ITV that week, was him again: the master of the post-prandial prattle, Michael Parkinson.
No points for guessing who his first nomination was (“The only problem would be finding time to stop laughing and eat the food”), nor his second (“The greatest raconteur I have ever met – and I’ve met quite a few”). What’s more striking, though, was the way Parky proceeded to flout the rules and choose seven people to attend the meal, when TV Times had clearly insisted he could only choose five. You might have had some courtesy, man, the feature had only just been launched!
At least his enervating babble was amusingly undermined by an accompanying line drawing of the grouchy bugger, which was the most assuredly hopeless, i.e. splendid appropriate rendering of the man ever seen. Half of Parky’s face was missing, though sadly not the bottom half, and rather than draw a big head on a little body the anonymous artist had done it the other way round. Better still, the entire thing had been reproduced on the front cover as well.
He’d probably quit TV altogether if such a thing had happened today. Oh, wait a minute…