Michael Parkinson, Legendary U.K. Talk Show Host, Dies at 88

Michael Parkinson, the English broadcaster who hosted the long-running talk show “Parkinson,” has died, the BBC reports. He was 88.

In a statement to the BBC, Parkinson’s family said: “After a brief illness Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night in the company of his family. The family request that they are given privacy and time to grieve.”

Parkinson hosted his eponymous talk show from 1971 to 1982 on BBC1, and then again from 1998 to 2007. In 2004, “Parkinson” moved from BBC1 to ITV. Over the course of the show’s run, Parkinson interviewed guests like Paul McCartney, Muhammad Ali, George Michael, Madonna, Fred Astaire, Orson Welles and Mel Gibson. By his own estimation, Parkinson interviewed 2,000 celebrities during his career.

Born in the village of Cudworth in South Yorkshire, England, Parkinson began his career as a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian and Daily Express. He also spent two years in the British Army, working as a press liaison officer. During the ’60s, Parkinson shifted to television, working for the BBC and Granada Television, presenting on BBC1’s “Twenty-Four Hours” and Granada’s late-night film review show, respectively. In July 1971, he scored his own show on BBC1 with “Parkinson.” The talk show made him a household name, and he appeared as himself in TV movie “Ghostwatch” in 1992 as well as Richard Curtis’ 2003 rom-com “Love Actually.” After announcing his retirement in 2007, Parkinson appeared as himself on the Australian soap “Neighbours.” In 2012, Parkinson returned to TV to host Sky Arts’ “Parkinson: Masterclass,” during which his interview subjects dove even deeper into their passions. Parkinson revealed that he had received treatment for prostate cancer in 2013, but announced that he had gone into remission in 2015.

In a statement, BBC director Tim Davies said: “Michael was the king of the chat show and he defined the format for all the presenters and shows that followed. 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.”

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