Life as seen by Aspel
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The Guardian: This Is Your Life article

The Guardian 1 April 1988

Life as seen by Aspel

John Ezard

Michael Aspel yesterday continued his rise towards becoming the bland television face of the late 1980s by taking over Eamonn Andrews' job as host of This Is Your Life.

He beat contenders said to include Terry Wogan, Michael Parkinson, Des O'Connor, David Jacobs and Noel Edmonds for the three year contract. He will present 20 shows in the first year, starting this autumn, and 26 in each of the remaining two at a pay rate estimated as about £10,000 a show.

This would give him £720,000 over the three years. Reports yesterday that he would make around £1 million are regarded as overestimates.

The contract allows him to continue with his chat show Aspel and Company, the Six O'Clock Show for London Weekend and special events. It crowns a year in which he presented the Bafta awards and gently persuaded Elizabeth Taylor to confess to a face lift.

A Thames TV official said the decisive factor behind his choice was that he had "the show business enterprise to jump out from behind trees to catch the subject of This Is Your Life – plus the ability to hide behind a book and let the subject do the work for the rest of the show."

Eamonn Andrews, who died in November, presented over 800 episodes of the show after launching it on BBC Television in the 1950s.

The Sunday Times 28 February 1988

Russell Harty's Notebook: Gamble on a desert island air-lift

I HAVE some advice for William Hill, the bookmaker. You can back on Eddie Edwards at the Winter Olympics and turn your gaze to a much more important and domestic gamble.

Look at Thames Television, which has taken out a firm option on This Is Your Life - a seminal programme formerly hosted by the much-missed Eamonn Andrews.

Somebody has to present this to the nation, and who shall it be? The runners in the frame change hourly, and so do the odds.

It was going to be Gloria Hunniford. She has the same Andrews lilt and she listens. She doesn't raise an eyebrow to score a point and she is, as it were, of matronal proportions. But somebody popped Penelope Keith into Eamonn's other chair of What's My Line and we are not considered to be sufficiently emancipated, in our radical feminist thinking, to have two lady riders in what is virtually the same race for the ratings.

Michael Aspel is too happy at London Weekend and too successful, if you take Elizabeth Taylor's word for it - there are not many who wouldn't. Then David Jacobs name came in last week.

If I were David Elstein, the controller of Thames Television in whose gift this appointment squarely lies, I would sign up Emlyn Hughes.

I have watched this man like a hawk, team-captaining on A Question of Sport. He knows upon which side his bread is buttered, and he knows where the jam is, too. He is popular, intelligent, humble and sharp, a mixture of characteristics that does not grow upon a tree. Thirty three to one. An outsider.

But, whisper it not in Gath, or the Euston Road in London, the odds on a certain Parkinson, M, of that ilk, are rapidly narrowing.

He is about to be air-lifted from his Desert Island. He is worth watching, in more senses than two. If William Hill doesn't bite, Ladbrokes may. Nine to one. You would be wise, it may be said, to put your money where his mouth is.

The Times 1 April 1988

Aspel's taste of the high life


Michael Aspel became the highest-paid performer on British television yesterday when he was appointed as Eamonn Andrews' successor as host of This Is Your Life.

Mr Aspel is signing an agreement with Thames Television, reported to be worth up to £390,000 a year, while renewing his existing contract with LWT, which is said to be worth almost as much, for another three years.

Mr Aspel, aged 55, said yesterday: 'I knew that I must have been a candidate, although I wasn't exactly sitting at home thinking 'please let it be me'. It wasn't an easy decision.'

'I seem to have taken over a number of national institutions over the years: Family Favourites, Crackerjack and now This Is Your Life.'

In spite of speculation about successors - including Gloria Hunniford and Tom O'Connor - Thames said Mr Aspel had been its choice, and that of Mr Andrews's widow, from the start.

Mrs Grainne Andrews said at her home at Portmarnock, Co Dublin: 'Eamonn was a great fan of his. He loved his chat show and thought he handled it very well.'

This Is Your Life began on BBC in 1955 and ran until 1964. It was revived by Thames in 1969 and continued until Mr Andrews's death last November.

Mr Aspel, who has been a subject of the programme, began as a radio actor in the 1950s, becoming one of BBC Television's youngest news readers in 1957.