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That’s Life!

The appeal for people to send in photos of street signs that look like they say the word FUCK is another bumper success Esther meets her people while the nanny holds The Baby; Desmond not pictured "Yes, we do employ black nancies too"

AS NOT THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS had it: “Bleeding bloody ESTHER bleeding bloody effing bloody RANTZEN bloody woman.” Disambiguously deranged consumer show which lined up cot deaths next to deformed parsnips and DOC COX. Brass band theme. Going out on the street to get OAPs to eat snails/hedgehog crisps etc, and getting arrested in the process. OAPs and assorted freaks playing their false teeth, the top of their heads, the spoons, a garden hose whirled around the head, a garden hose with a kitchen sink attatched to it, etc. The “who can play the Sailor’s hornpipe on a trumpet in the shortest time?” non-contest. Dogs saying “sausages”, “I love you”, “Raymond”, and other words suspiciously similar to a dog’s growl with a little external manipulation of the jaw added. The Red Barrows (ha ha ha). The Get Britain Singing Campaign. German Shepherds drinking from a soda siphon in that pub. Dogs pissing on the rubber plant in the studio. Talented Pets in general (cue endless non-speaking cockatoos, showjumping rabbits, etc.) Hilarious, innuendo-laden shop names. Hilarious, innuendo-laden number plates. Hilarious, innuendo-laden vegetables. Hilarious confusingly-worded foreign pamphlets which were more often than not set to music to make them EVEN FUNNIER. Tedious clip always dragged out of ADRIAN MILLS being crap at a Spanish accent. Doc “out and about” singing George Formby songs on the street about planning restrictions on double-glazing and women being unable to whistle. The line about CYRIL FLETCHER being “The Odd Ode-r in the corner”. The Jobsworth golden peaked cap, and its polar opposite, the Good Neighbour award. Everything-that-happened in-the-show felt-tip-cartoons closing titles. By Rod Jordan. Then on the ‘serious’ Watchdoggy side you had badly-removed tattoos, bad homes for OAPs, bad patio builders, bad holidays, and of course the heart-op tragedy kid and that awful MARTI WEBB Michael Jackson cover version. The second most powerful woman in Britain at the time was backed up, over the years, by GLYN WORSNIP, KIERAN PRENDIVILLE, CYRIL FLETCHER, ADRIAN MILLS, BILL BUCKLEY, GAVIN CAMPBELL, DOC COX, VICTORIA WOOD, JOANNA MUNRO, HOWARD LEADER and GRANT BAYNHAM (that glasses and bow-tie bloke. Looked like Robin Day meets Michael Wood). Early 90s death throes saw MOLLIE SUGDEN perched on a chaise longue reading out misprints and bon mots alongside hated Brighton comedian SIMON “Stripey blazer, funny face, big glasses – oh dear, not a single laugh” FANSHAWE. Best remembered in small doses. And small dozes.

"Now I wonder...how many of you...recognise...ONE OF THESE!" "A woman in Crawley encountered a most perspicacious shop front imploring her to COCK HER WAY TO A MAN'S HEART" Not a practicing GP
23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. diz

    August 20, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Carbon Monoxide and Cut & Shuts a seemingly recurring feature at the arse-end of the Cream era. In between the genitalia-lookalike veg and adverts with words that look/sound a bit like “fuck”, of course

  2. Dave Nightingale

    August 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    “We rang the electricity board,and they said…..I’m sorry,it really has nothing to do with us…”

    Ah…I remember it well.Carrots that looked liked Knobs,Gavin Campbell trying to be funny,and a little bit of seriousness from Esther…Sunday Night essential viewing :-)…..

  3. Arthur Nibble

    August 20, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Ah….Doc Cox, otherwise known as Ivor Biggun, who had a top 30 hit with “The Winker’s Song (Misprint)”.

  4. David Pascoe

    August 21, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Its greatest achievements were Childline and forcing every playground in the country to replace concrete with woodchippings/felt mats for kids to fall on if they came off slides or swings too quickly.

  5. Mags

    August 21, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Every playground? It never reached our local park/playground where I fell off a slide and broke my arm. 15 years and at least two more children with broken arms, it still has concrete underneath it. They got rid of the roundabout though, apparently that was a greater risk to teens drinking in the park. And the trees with the low branches, mean buggers.

  6. Paul Gatenby

    August 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    They used to hammer on about a subject for weeks – there was the song about Guar gum in slimming products to the tune of ‘Not Fade Away’ that was repeated ad nauseum. And Wet Wet Wet at the end playing ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’.

  7. Glenn Aylett

    August 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Does anyone know any official or authority that received a golden Jobsworth hat and kept it? I would love to know what the winners did with this present from Esther Rantzen.

  8. goodpudding

    August 21, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I’ve got a good idea when they got it through the post….

    “Return to Sender….”

    Its little wonder that no-one didn’t report ‘Sausages’ owner to the RSPCA! Clearly was seen pulling the fur on its lower lip to make his mouth move…

    Now, if he had said all the items in an Full English, then I would have been impressed!

  9. David Smith

    June 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Had a great blast from the past this afternoon at the Hanwell Carnival in west London – a live appearance by The Red Barrows!

  10. Richard16378

    August 6, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I used to like the funny product names spotted on holiday, “Sodd” tinned veg & “Atum Bom” sardines come to mind.

    The end titles were a political style cartoon of things mentioned in the show, drawn by Rod Jordan.

    The Order Of The Boot was another award for badly implemented rules.

    The Red Barrows have turned up a Marple Carnival a few times.

  11. FoyRob

    April 30, 2013 at 2:05 am

    ‘We asked Clive Tench of Which? magazine…’

    • P S

      July 20, 2020 at 12:12 am

      He said “You’ll need to speak to my brother, David.”

  12. Zardoz

    June 13, 2015 at 6:24 am

    ‘Heap of the Week’ in the early series. Esther – ‘I demand you find me someone even less funny than Cyril Fletcher’. Enter Simon Fanshawe, The Man Who Died Every Week. Painful to behold.

  13. Zardoz

    June 13, 2015 at 6:24 am

    ‘Heap of the Week’ in the early series. Esther – ‘I demand you find me someone even less funny than Cyril Fletcher’. Enter Simon Fanshawe, The Man Who Died Every Week. Painful to behold.

  14. Droogie

    July 15, 2020 at 2:08 am

    I have fond memories watching That’s Life as a kid – if only for it being one of the few lighthearted shows to be seen in the miserable wasteland that was Sunday TV during the 70’s & 80’s ( and the last show your parents would let you stay up for before the misery of school on Monday.) Their darker consumer campaign features mostly stick in my brain though , especially the one about Skoal Bandits – which were lethal Imported American fruit flavoured chewing tobacco pouches that due to a UK loophole could be bought by 16 year olds over here. They featured a very moving story of an American high school kid who was a brilliant athlete but who got addicted to these things and who died from mouth cancer whilst still at a college. The piece was a bit sensationalist, but it did at least get them banned over here.

    • richardpd

      July 15, 2020 at 10:45 am

      There was a discussion on Skoal Bandits on another site recently. Part of the ban being brought in was due to the makers claiming they were a safer alternative to smoking.

      As well as the risk of throat cancer, they made a mess of your teeth in you overused them, staining them brown.

      Someone pointed out that the Bandit logo fittingly had a bandana over it’s mouth, they reckoned to cover up their stained teeth.

      Ironically Skoal opened a factory in East Kilbride with government money in 1985, and it had to close in 1988 due to the ban.

      • Droogie

        July 15, 2020 at 2:58 pm

        Ha. That’s hilarious about the logo. I remember That’s Life uncovering how Skoal were trying to make their product attractive and cool to kids by giving away free t-shirts and sports bags with the brand name on for some free advertising.

  15. Glenn Aylett

    July 15, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Skoal Bandits, I’d forgotten about these vile things. I tried one once and it was disgusting and dangerous if you had too many. Thanks to Esther, they were banned.
    Also Esther and her boys were probably hated by British Leyland, another company that eventually went under( well Rover by then), who exposed how rubbish their cars were in the seventies. Remember, 19 million people watched That’s Life in 1977 and many of them probably never bought another Leyland car again.

  16. Droogie

    July 15, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    it was a strange show indeed. Weird stuff about vegetables that looked like genitals , but then they did decent stuff like set up Childline and stopped various dodgy scams . I remember When they shut down page 3 girl Sam Fox and her dodgy Australian manager boyfriend of the time trying to sell his expensive slimming tea that magically made people lose weight ( but of course it didn’t.)

    • richardpd

      July 15, 2020 at 11:46 pm

      I think I remember that slimming tea being Hung Zee Tea. Esther reckoned the only pounds you would lose with it had the Queen’s head on them.

      Lancia also got a drubbing when they were trying to buy Betas back after a few years because they rusted so badly.

      Skoal Bandits sponsored The Spirit Formula 1 team and some other racing teams.

    • Glenn Aylett

      July 17, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      That’s Life ran for over 20 years and apart from the rubbish like the talking dog, it was quite a pioneering show with its consumer rights campaigns and exposes of dodgy businesses. The spirit of That’s Life lived on in programmes like Watchdog, particularly the Nicky Campbell years, where he forced an apology out of a Peugeot executive for selling cars that were fire hazards.

  17. richardpd

    July 17, 2020 at 11:43 pm

    My remembers in the early days That’s Life was a bit more serious and Watchdog like, with the silly features only becoming more prevalent later on.

  18. THX 1139

    July 18, 2020 at 12:06 am

    Dog driving a car = comedy gold.

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