Sir Michael Parkinson is to return to TV interviews four years after his retirement with a new series for Sky.

Parky, as he is popularly known, bowed out from his Saturday night ITV series in late 2007 after years of interviewing showbiz greats.

Now he is to host a six-part Masterclass series for Sky Arts in which he looks back over the career of one artist each week to discuss their “life and times”.

Sir Michael’s shows were famed for must-see appearances by the greats, such as Muhammad Ali, Bob Hope and Orson Welles.

They also featured memorable moments such as the time he was attacked by Rod Hull’s puppet Emu and a cringeworthy 2003 interview with Meg Ryan.

The new series is the chat show king’s first for Sky after many years with the BBC and latterly with ITV.

He said: “I’m delighted to be working with Sky Arts on the Masterclass series and look forward to being part of the exciting times ahead for this innovative and important channel.”

The series – The Sky Arts Masterclass with Michael Parkinson – will be filmed in front of a studio audience, who will also be able to ask questions. Depending on the celebrity, the show will also include acoustic performances or dramatic recitals.

Channel director James Hunt said the signing was “one of our country’s finest broadcasters”.

“It’s a real privilege to welcome Sir Michael onto the channel,” he said. “This new interview series will allow Sir Michael to get closer than ever before to his subject, extracting the essence of their character in a way that only he can. We’re delighted to welcome him on board.”