‘Had its problems’ Michael Parkinson opens up on decision to quit Desert Island Discs

Sir Michael Parkinson has been referred to as the “greatest talk-show host in British television”. The 86-year-old has chatted to industry legends such as Sir Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Madonna, and John Wayne, but he has now admitted interviewing icons on Desert Island Discs did not come without interference. 

Meg Ryan’s awkward interview with Michael Parkinson in 2003

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The broadcasting heavyweight presented BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs series in 1986 for three years. 

The show, which was first broadcast on BBC Forces Programme back in January 1942, has now aired more than 3,000 episodes. 

Each week a guest, called a castaway, is asked to select eight of their favourite songs, as well as a book and a luxury item they would take if they were to be stranded on a desert island. 

The programme was originally presented by Roy Plomley, and since 2018, the popular show has been hosted by Lauren Laverne. 

In a new interview, Sir Michael opened up on his decision to quit the iconic show.

He said: “I always thought Desert Island Discs was a lovely idea but it had its problems. 

“The music interrupted too much.”

During the programme, listeners get to hear clips of the tracks the guests have chosen as part of the “soundtrack to their lives”. 

Sir Michael has also criticised the show in the past, explaining that he could not understand its “enduring popularity”. 

He previously told The Express: “It has credibility and a strange reputation. Really, when you think about it, it’s just an interview going out.”

His remarks came to light after the show was named the greatest radio programme of all time. 

Desert Island Discs was bestowed with the honor in a poll conducted by Radio Times in 2019. 

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Sir Michael has been on both sides of the show, as he appeared as a castaway himself in 1972. 

In an unearthed interview with The Express, he said: “I was on it before I did the actual show itself. 

“I was flattered to be asked to do it but I never regarded it as a high point of my broadcasting life.”

When the TV veteran was asked which radio show was the best of all time in his opinion, he said it would have to be The Goon Show, as it was the “most innovative comedy show that has ever been on radio”.

As well as sharing his thoughts on Desert Island Discs, Sir Michael has recently shed a light on his stand-out interviews, as well as his regret over his infamous conversation with Meg Ryan. 

He confessed he wished he had not “lost his temper” with the American actress after she appeared on his show in 2003.

It was an interview which soon became regarded as the most awkward encounters in the history of his chat show. 

Sir Michael’s full interview is available to read now in Radio Times.

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