Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 43
Running time 30–60 minutes
Final episode date 2003
Writers Ralph Edwards
Genre Documentary Biography
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 1,130
First episode date 29 July 1955
Program creator Ralph Edwards
|Presented by Eamonn Andrews (1955–1964, 1969–1987), Michael Aspel (1987–2003), Trevor McDonald (2007)|
Similar Through the Keyhole, The Benny Hill Show, An Audience with, Whicker's World, The Frank Skinner Show
Barbara taylor bradford this is your life
This is Your Life is a British biographical television documentary, based on the 1952 American show of the same name. It was hosted by Eamonn Andrews from 1955 until 1964, and then from 1969 until his death in 1987 aged 64. Michael Aspel then took up the role of host until the show ended in 2003. It returned in 2007 as a one-off special presented by Trevor McDonald, which to date was its most recent airing.
In the show the host surprises a special guest, before taking them through their life with the assistance of the 'big red book'. Both celebrities and non-celebrities have been 'victims' of the show. The show was originally broadcast live, and over its run it has alternated between being broadcast on the BBC and on ITV.
The surprise element was a very important part of the show; if the guest heard about the project beforehand, it would be immediately abandoned.
The British version of the show was launched in 1955 on the BBC and was first presented by Ralph Edwards to the first "victim", Eamonn Andrews, who was the presenter from the second show. The scriptwriter for the first 35 episodes was Gale Pedrick. It ended in 1964 when Andrews moved to Associated British Corporation, but it was revived on ITV (produced by Thames Television) in 1969.
The only other occasion during Andrews' presentational run where he was not the presenter was in 1974 when he was the subject a second time, and the show was presented by David Nixon. Michael Aspel (himself, a "victim" in 1980) became presenter after Andrews died in 1987. The show returned to the BBC in 1994 but was still produced independently by Thames Television. The programme was axed again in 2003.
At first, the show was always broadcast live; later, programmes were sometimes pre-recorded. Live broadcasts ended in 1983 when boxer Alan Minter could not stop swearing during his appearance, but newspapers were able to find out which star was to be featured and ratings dropped as people no longer watched it just to see who was on that week.
The show returned in June 2007 on ITV for a one-off special programme hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald with guest Simon Cowell. The new edition was co-produced by ITV Productions, STV Productions, TIYL Productions, Click TV and Ralph Edwards Productions.
Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway featured a return of This is Your Life to celebrate Ant & Dec's 25 years together, quizzing them on their 25 years as part of "Ant vs Dec" in episode 6 of Series 11. Michael Aspel returned as host alongside Ashley Roberts.
Lynn Redgrave, in December 1996, was caught while taking her bow in her one-woman show on stage at the Haymarket Theatre, the only time the Redgrave clan was seen together on stage at the same time. Bob Hope and Dudley Moore have been the only subjects of two-part editions of the programme, in 1970 and 1987 respectively. Both were broadcast over two weeks. Clive Mantle's profile included a post-credits sequence where he thanked the audience for coming.
Footballer Danny Blanchflower turned down the "red book" in February 1961. Author Richard Gordon (of Doctor in the House fame) was asked in 1974 and, like Bill Oddie (of The Goodies) in 2001, he initially turned it down, but changed his mind and appeared on the show. Actor Richard Beckinsale was a feature on the show shortly after his 31st birthday, eight months before his death.
In 1996, the Sunday Mirror reported that a planned show for Cockney comedy actor Arthur Mullard was pulled after researchers contacted his eldest son. The same report featured claims that Mullard had terrorised his family and had sexually abused his daughter for many years.
The series originally included non-celebrities who had done extraordinary things in their lives. In later years, following a persistent criticism of only deeming celebrities worthy of being featured on the show, non-celebrities were featured again. These included businesspeople, military personnel, the clergy and those that had performed outstanding community or charity service but who were not well known to the general public. Examples include: paramedic Allan Norman; Group Captain Leonard Cheshire; Cromer lifeboatman Henry "Shrimp" Davies; Colonel Tod Sweeney; Mary Ward, community nurse to the boat people of the canals; Chay Blyth; Sir Nicholas Winton; Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader; and Sir Fitzroy Maclean. The series never profiled serving politicians, although retired politicians were occasionally featured, e.g. Lord Brabourne.
Forty-two celebrities have appeared on the show twice — including Honor Blackman, Bob Monkhouse and Eamonn Andrews himself.
David Butler was 17 when he became the youngest ever subject of This is Your Life. He was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in the headmaster's study of Hemel Hempstead Grammar School. David lost both his legs and a hand when, aged 11, he found an unexploded bomb on Ivinghoe Beacon.
When snooker player Stephen Hendry was surprised with the red book in 1990, aged 21, he remarked that he had "hardly had a life".
The theme tune used from 1969 was called 'Gala Performance' and was composed by Laurie Johnson for KPM.