Michael Palin: I was sixth choice for TV job

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But things could have worked out very differently if the BBC went with one of their top five choices, one of whom was Swap Shop legend Noel. Michael, 79, said: “They came to me out of the blue. I was sitting there at the desk, drumming my fingers, I’d just finished A Fish Called Wanda and there was nothing else interesting around. “I got this phone call saying we’ve got this project to go around the world in 80 days and a camera will follow you.

“You’ve got everything we need, you’ve got the sense of adventure, humour, you know the world, you’re ­personable, you’ve made television programmes…so I went ‘sure I’ll do it’. I couldn’t see any reason not to say yes.”

What the multi-Bafta award-winner didn’t know at the time was that “apparently, five other people had all said no”.

Michael revealed four of the names to ShowTalk podcast: “I was lucky really. Alan Whicker was the first.

The story is the BBC took Alan out to lunch to pitch the show [at] Pizza Hut. Alan doesn’t do Pizza Hut, as anyone who has seen his programmes knows.

“A nice man called Miles Kington, a journalist who was a friend of mine and died sadly about 10 years ago, was asked.

“Noel Edmonds was asked, Clive James was asked. I thank them to the bottom of my heart they said no. How different life could’ve been – I could have done Mr Blobby and Noel could have been travelling the world.”

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