Parky bemoans state of TV as 'South Bank Show' is axed

Michael Parkinson today hit out at the television output of property programmes and police chases in the wake of the announcement that the 'South Bank Show' is to be axed.

Michael Parkinson today hit out at the television output of property programmes and police chases in the wake of the announcement that the 'South Bank Show' is to be axed.

ITV announced earlier this month that the show will end after more than 30 years, with host Melvyn Bragg stepping down next year at the end of the current series and no plans for another.

Veteran chat show host Parkinson, 74, also highlighted the prevalence of celebrities such as Cheryl Cole, Katie Price and Simon Cowell, as well as documentaries with outlandish titles.

He said that Bragg’s legacy would serve as a “reminder of a time when television made programmes for an audience reckoned to have an IQ larger than the numbers you would find in a bingo bag”.

Parky’s latest broadside follows his assertion in the Radio Times last month that the late Jade Goody was “the perfect victim of our times”.

Writing in the latest issue of the magazine, Parkinson said there was a time when the 'South Bank Show' was regarded as essential by ITV bosses, “not simply to add a touch of class to an otherwise populist schedule, but because of a genuine belief it had a duty as a broadcaster to inform as well as entertain”.

He said: “What they could never have anticipated was that they had hired someone who was not only a talented programme-maker, but also a doughty fighter and a skilled diplomat who protected his creation long after the initial enthusiasm had turned to indifference, and worse when, as was recently announced, it became surplus to requirements.

“That decision tells us more about the current state of ITV than about the departing Bragg.

“Peter Fincham (ITV’s director of television), who in another life might have been horrified at the thought of being known as the man who took the 'South Bank Show' off air, said ITV was looking at arts programming, but that the return of arts to the schedule would depend on the ideas put forward.”

He continued: “If you balance that proposition against the current output on ITV, we might expect the likes of Kerry Katona, Jordan and Cheryl Cole to create the necessary link between the ITV audience and, let’s say, 'Jane Eyre on Ice', or Simon Cowell’s opera, 'Robson and Jerome: My Part in Their Downfall', or Al Murray investigating the wonder of chromosomes in a talent show called 'The Y Factor'.”

Parky began his chat show on the BBC in the early 1970s, before switching to ITV in 2004.

The star, who interviewed Fred Astaire, Richard Burton, Muhammad Ali and Orson Welles over his long career, brought down the curtain on more than 30 years of his chat show at the end of 2007.

He has said that he was told he had become too expensive.

Parkinson said he believed Bragg is a “natural BBC man” – adding: “More importantly, the BBC is the only organisation left able to accommodate the budget of the 'South Bank Show'.”

Summing up the situation as he sees it in the Radio Times, he said: “Nowadays, I find myself dreaming of a television service where chefs are no longer allowed to rissole the language, or food critics encouraged to compare a well-cooked pork chop with the Sistine Chapel.

“In my television paradise there would be no more property programmes, no more police-chasing-yobbos-in-cars programmes and, most of all and please God, no more so-called documentary shows with titles like 'My 20-Ton Tumour', 'My Big Fat Head', 'Wolf Girl', 'Embarrassing Illnesses', 'Make Gifs With Dishwasher' and 'The Fastest Man on No Legs'.”

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