Documentary on How "This is Your Life" Surprised its Subjects
THIS IS YOUR LIFE ran on British television from 1955 to 2003, with a five-year break between 1964 and 1969. Until 1987 it was presented by Eamonn Andrews, both on BBC and ITV; at its peak the program attracted up to 20 million viewers in its regular ITV slot on Wednesdays at 19.00.
Made in 1987, during Andrews's final series before his untimely death at the age of only sixty-four, this documentary looks at how the "hit" on the subject was carefully planned and choreographed. The subject covered was Bill Waddington, formerly a comedian who made his name playing Percy Sugden in CORONATION STREET. We see how producer Malcolm Morris and his team, working closely with Andrews, planned to surprise Waddington at Euston Station as he arrived from Manchester, with the help of the Joe Loss Orchestra; and subsequently look backstage at Thames Television as the program unfolds.
What is perhaps most noteworthy is the strain that Andrews experiences on a live show in which things can invariably go wrong. This strain was one of the principal causes of his early demise. Nonetheless he cuts a supremely calm and unruffled figure on screen - a tribute to his professionalism as a broadcaster.
Some viewers might have hated THIS IS YOUR LIFE, with its carefully airbrushed profiles of its subjects wrapped up in cloying sentimentality. Nonetheless, any program that runs over forty-five years must have had a certain attraction: this documentary goes a long way towards explaining why.
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