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What’s My Line?

THE TYPE of prissy early TV parlour game in which the host was referred to as “Chairman”. This remorseless conveyor belt of a series consisted of the most simple premise: a panel of celebrities (or grumpy bastards) would be challenged to guess the occupation of a never ending stream of members of the public. Why the programme wasn’t called “What’s My Job?” is, frankly, baffling. Even “In What Line Of Work Am I Currently Employed?” would have sufficed, albeit it’s probably a bit of a mouthful. The early years of the series made an unwilling star out of sexually confused angry old man GILBERT HARDING, but wife of BERNARD BRADEN, BARBARA KELLY also struck a TV first by accomplishing the astonishing feat of becoming famous enough to appear on the panel, simply by appearing on the panel (the principle underpinning this extraordinary act of self-perpetuating feedback would later form the theoretical basis underpinning the title sequence to DOCTOR WHO, as well as provide a basis for the career of future PUNCHLINES “celebrity” guest ROSE-MARIE). WHAT’S MY LINE? proved to be extraordinary popular during its early years, and after its demise in 1963 it was only a matter of time before it made some form of return. That it did, first under the mantle of DAVID JACOBS, then in the shape of six long series for Thames Television in the late 80s. Unbelievably after original host EAMONN ANDREWS popped his clogs in 1987, Thames found an even more cantankerous presenter in the shape of first PENELOPE KEITH, then ANGELA RIPPON to take over. Since then, a Meridian helmed mid-Nineties comeback with EMMA FORBES in the role of “Chairman” has provided a muted postscript to one of television’s grumpiest game shows.

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  1. THX 1139

    April 20, 2015 at 12:11 am

    There’s an episode from 1974 on iPlayer featuring Mike Yarwood as the special guest, he signs in as Harold Wilson and oh how the audience roar with laughter. I recognised the whole panel, William Franklyn, Nanette Newman, Kenneth Williams, apart from Lady Isobel Barnett, who was apparently a mainstay of the show from the 50s onwards. I know this because I looked her up on Wikipedia, and if you want to feel a bit depressed, read the “Later life and death” section of her entry.

    It was an OK show, but the potential for humour was surprisingly non-abundant, they were too busy guessing.

  2. Angela

    August 14, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    I was in an episode with Barry sheen (hero) bobby davro and the usual suspects Barbara Kelly, George gale and jolly cooper.
    My ex husband mistakenly wiped the recording off our video tape.
    Would anyone know where I can get a copy, my son was in the audience he was only 2 or 3 yrs old.
    I would love him to have a copy.
    Thames were the Chanel. Ramon Andrews was looking very thin at the time and clearly not in the best if health. I understand that he came over from Ireland to record two programmes in one sitting. He did the usual joke to audience’ you’re so much better than the audience last week !
    Kelly went off after the first and changed into a different outfit.
    The character mike Baldwin was the mystery guest.
    In the second show the fella who played opposite lady Georgina of upstairs downstairs. (Incidentally my old school mate Lesley down by then Lesley ann down.
    His name may of been Bellamy , he was the only one who interacted in the green room with the guests and was particularly interested in how the bell rope maker made his ropes (second show ) may if been examines last as he died not too long afterwards.
    Barbara Kelly swanned through ur was beneath her in my opinion to speak to anyone that wasn’t being paid to be on the show
    It would do celebs a service to remind them they couldn’t earn their living without them.
    The Baldwin character seemed quite like his coronation street part.
    But Barry sheen and davro were having a laugh and Ramon had to tick them off like two naughty schoolboys.
    I did get the certificate ages afterwards and when I told my motorbike nut of a son I had Barry sheens signature on it he wAs amazed. We got it out and the only one that appears not to have been written in invisible ink is eamons.
    I went on to work at Yamaha and a grey haired gent stood in front of me on reception. Someone said that’s Barry sheens uncle. We got chatting and I told him that not only had I met him on the show, but he had come to the aid of my cousin Karen when she fell of her push bike. She was only a young kid and she was made up.
    I suppose he must of thought I know how that feels.
    His uncle explained he was living in Australia and the weather suited him better as he was so full of nuts and bolts from his times on the track.
    That was around 2009-2001 and I was sad to hear on the news that he had died so young.
    So if there is anyone out there who could help me with this endeavour it would be greatly appreciated.
    It will be nice for my 31 year old son to see me at the age of 32 and no wrinkles.
    Angela

  3. David Smith

    August 16, 2016 at 8:21 am

    You could try contacting Fremantle Media who I think will own the rights to Thames material these days – providing the episode still exists and hasn’t been wiped, they might be able to do you a copy of it (although they’ll probably charge).

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