Notepad on Life

October 17, 2012

See how far chat shows have dumbed down

Filed under: Nostalgia,TV — - @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , ,

The year is 1974. Michael Parkinson is in conversation with Orson Welles about the latter’s relationship with Ernest Hemingway, in a programme that wasn’t tucked away in some BBC 6 backwater but represented near-peak BBC 1 viewing on Saturday night.

All right, so you don’t get a name-drop like Hemingway very often but that is incidental here. It isn’t just the indoor smoking that sets this in a different universe from the chat shows we get now. Consider this: an intelligent man offering genuine reflection, in an interview given room to breathe by a presenter with clearly not the slightest interest in being the star of his own show.

People talk about Parkinson’s genius for hosting chat shows but it was actually very simple. He listened. So for that matter did millions of viewers. We could handle this kind of thing back then.

Now try and picture Orson Welles trying to make these points in a similar format today. I don’t deny Messrs Norton, Ross, Carr and O’Grady have entertained me in their time but if they weren’t trying to shut him off to get their quota of punchlines in, rest assured their producers would be having kittens off-camera, making furious circling motions with their hands to hurry things along, while a sidekick held up signs urging the presenter to ‘ask who’s the best shag in Hollywood?’

It’s only four minutes (the full show is here) but be in no doubt: it shows just how far we have fallen.



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