TV Cream

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This is Your Life

"When he comes off stage, he'll walk to his dressing room, open the door and expect to see his wife waiting with a bunch of flowers. Instead..."ORIGINALLY HOSTED by television’s most ill-at-ease presenter (EAMONN ANDREWS), THIS IS YOUR LIFE was a behemoth of a television programme, an institution that spanned decades, crossed channels, yet still was never able to surmount that “I’ll just flick over at the beginning to see if it’s anyone interesting” lack of engagement by the watching populace. Each edition would invariably start with that wonderful fanfare, disingenuously called “Gala Performance” (but quite obviously written so that the viewer could accompany that four note opening salvo with a musical rendition of the show’s title). After that, the camera would pan across to Andrews awkwardly hanging around outside a stage door, or just off set, preparing to present his menacing frame in front of one of light entertainment’s leading figures. From thereon Eamonn (and later MICHAEL ASPEL) would recount a highly tweaked version of said celebrities life to date, usually featuring some old school years battleaxe-with-a-heart-of-gold, plus a pre-recorded message from the celeb’s local boozer, in which friends and family not sufficiently interesting to be allowed through the studio door would indulge in a choreographed mass “cheers!” Each episode could also be relied upon to feature a genuinely interesting celebrity guest who we never got to hear from thanks to the fact they were already positioned on the opposing sofa when that week’s subject was corralled onto the stage. Never much more than a super-charged THROUGH THE KEYHOLE, crossed with a dash of SURPRISE, SURPRISE, THIS IS YOUR LIFE nonetheless provided ageing celebs with a platform for the type of hoary old anecdotage previously confined to the AGM of the Grand Order of Water Rats, and for that we should be grateful.



  1. Des Elmes

    September 6, 2010 at 4:01 am

    TIYL is, in fact, one of the very few British TV shows to have started on one channel, crossed to a rival, and then returned to the original channel – it started on the BBC Television Service (no BBC2 in 1955, of course), crossed to ITV in 1969, and returned to BBC1 in 1994 (although still produced by Thames).

    “Very few”, because The Price Is Right also achieved this feat, if not quite on the same scale (starting on ITV in 1984, crossing to Sky in 1989 although still produced by Central, and returning to ITV when Bruce Forsyth became host in 1995).

    Incidentally, This Is Your Life was based on a show that originated on NBC in the United States in 1952 – and had the same name, same format, and same big red book.

  2. gman

    January 27, 2011 at 1:09 am

    It then crossed back to ITV a couple of years ago for a one-off edition, presented by Sir Trev, so that must give it even more distinction

  3. Terry

    March 28, 2015 at 11:29 am

    There was a funereal air to the opening theme that I found unsettling.

    • Mick

      September 14, 2019 at 8:08 pm

      Maybe because so many of the celebrities are dead now. I came to the comments to write on this very subject, ironically. When I see old episodes on UK Gold or wherever they are, it subconsciously seems like the guest entrance mini fanfare is played in minor. Probably because it descends. As as much it would be, with Tommy Cooper or the Dad’s Army cast walking in.

      Well that’s the downside to nostalgia – not everybody’s necessarily still here.

  4. richardpd

    September 14, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    The theme was Laurie Johnson’s Gala Parade.

    In the early days they often featured many people who weren’t famous but had an interesting story to tell.

    One being the woman whose life story formed the basis of Tenko.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    September 15, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    I always liked how a celebrity would be approached undercover and then outed to appear on This Is Your Life. Always enjoyed it and the theme tune seemed to smack of the West End for some reason.

  6. richardpd

    June 13, 2020 at 11:33 pm

    If handled right I’m sure this could be successfully revived, though these days it’s a lot easier to find out about celebrities by looking online.

    Who was the youngest guest to appear? Peter Davison seemed to be an odd choice to be on when he had only just started to be Dr Who and hadn’t had that many big parts apart from Tristan Farnan. At least it had that clip from The Tomorrow People.

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