Wednesday, 30 March 2016
366 That's Life
First viewed : Winter 1979
This isn't the coolest programme to admit that you watched but one has to be honest. This was one of a number of programmes around this time that I started watching on the recommendation of my best friend Stephen.
The series began in controversial circumstances. There was a popular consumer show called Braden's Week which ran from 1968 until 1972 when the host Bernard Braden was sacked by the BBC for the heinous crime of appearing in a margarine commercial. The show was effectively resurrected by producer Desmond Willcox with his mistress Esther Rantzen promoted to be main presenter. It's always worth remembering that this champion of child protection is a home-wrecker who stole a father-of-three away from his wife.
With her voluminous dresses, big teeth and ingratiating manner, Rantzen was the ultimate Marmite presenter, something you just had to get past to enjoy the rest of the show . When I started watching her co-presenters were the likable bloke-y duo of Paul Heiney and Chris Serle who played the jobsworths being exposed by the show and Cyril Fletcher. I can't improve on Griff Rhys-Jones' description of Fletcher, from a wicked Not The Nine O Clock News parody , as a "camp old twat". His job was to sit in a chair, read out some humorous misprints sent in by viewers then round off his slot with a rotten pun.
Added to that of course you had the phallic vegetables, comic songs by the likes of Richard Stilgo and those awful street interviews with old dears who didn't realise they were being patronised and then served up to the nation as idiots.
Heiney , Serle and Fletcher got out while the going was good in 1981. Fletcher's spot was taken by smutty songwriter Doc "Ivor Biggun" Cox while the boys were replaced by a trio including Angels actress Joanna Monro . It wasn't the same and I think I'd stopped watching it by the time I went to university, certainly by the time of the Ben Hardwick feature.
Public tastes change and the show was finally axed in 1994. Rantzen of course has stuck around and had other TV vehicles but has never been as prominent since.