One TV programme I’d pay good money to watch would be C.B. Fry (passim – he’s over to the right under Tags)’s appearance on ‘This Is Your Life”, originally shown in 1955, when he was aged 83.
I do find this hard to envisage, partly because most of Fry’s significant contemporaries must have been dead by this stage – though they did apparently persuade Jack Hobbs and S.F. Barnes to appear – and partly because it’s hard to picture quite how a man of Fry’s notorious hauteur would have reacted to Eamonn Andrews leaping out at him from the shrubbery and hauling him off to a TV studio.
I tried to find some footage on YouTube, but the best I could come up with was this – This is your life – where, quite unaccountably, they’ve chosen to go with Charlie Drake instead. It occurs to me that – given the choice they had at the time – they missed a trick in not choosing – say – Evelyn Waugh as a subject: if they had pounced on him as he stumbled out of White’s late one night it would have made for a very entertaining half hour – or possibly two minutes’ – viewing.
“This is Your Life” vanished from our screens some time ago, although I believe there was a “one-off special” featuring Simon Cowell a couple of years ago. From C.B. Fry to Simon Cowell – I don’t think I need labour the point.
I imagine the reason it was taken off was because in its heyday it treated its subjects gently, indeed cosily, and clearly this won’t cut the mustard with today’s sensation-sated audiences, nor be adequate to the eventful lives of today’s celebrities. There is potential though, I think, if the brand was refreshed.
What I envisage is as follows. Instead of Eamonn Andrews, the show would be hosted by Jeremy Kyle. Instead of the subject’s dear old white-haired parents coming on to explain how they never dreamed – all those years ago- that their child would ever appear on TV, the introduction might be (unseen voice) –
“I was so off my head at the time I didn’t realise I’d given birth. When I realised what had happened I took here down to the Council Tip and left here there”.
Kyle – “You said you never wanted to see her again, and that she’d ruined your life. But tonight she’s here – yes, it’s your mother Doreen!”
And so on. Instead of the perceptive and kindly teacher who had detected early promise, the best friend at school with the mildly embarassing but amusing anecdote about girls/boys, the pals from ENSA days, the old trouper who remembered his/her first appearance on the professional stage and so on, we could have …
The bullying teacher who said you’d never amount to anything – the good-for-nothing boyfriend who first introduced you to drugs – the dodgy photographer – the less-talented bandmates who forced you out of the group – the manager who ripped you off – the Love Rat who kissed-and-told to the News of the World – the plastic surgeon who warned you against any more surgery, but you wouldn’t listen – the feuding WAG – the friend who helped you escape from rehab and the producer who revealed that you’d never sung on your records anyway.
The show would become more and more acrimonious, and contain more scenes of gratuitous shouting until the finale. On the old version of the show this would usually involve some long Auntie who had emigrated to Australia and hadn’t been seen for twenty years being flown back for an emotional reunion.
In the new version the final guest would be the person with whom the subject has had a public and long-running feud – so for Katie Price it might be Peter Andre, for Martin Amis – Julian Barnes.
The entire thing would then descend into an unseemly brawl and, indeed, a general melee, in which chairs would be smashed over the host’s head as the credits rolled and the audience stormed the stage with violence in their hearts.
I feel this idea might even be the saving of ITV. Now, what did I do with Endemol’s number …