Just A Few Words of Thanks...
TV Times
5 December 1990
TV Times: Michael Aspel article
related pages...

Michael Aspel

a career review

Michael Aspel

his 1980 This Is Your Life appearance

The Big Red Book

the programme's icon

Harry Corbett

Paul Daniels

Engelbert Humperdinck


'I'd like to thank Mum, Dad, Auntie Ethel, my boss, the typing pool, the tea ladies...' You've heard it all before – and worse. So has Michael Aspel but, as he tells us, he's got a lot to be thankful for...

Most showbusiness awards ceremonies – and I've attended a few – involve warm acknowledgements of the people who have contributed to the winners' success. Traditionally, this embraces producers, writers and cameramen. In recent years the gratitude has spread to the rest of the crew – chippies, plasterers, canteen manageresses – plus a list of strange professions that mean nothing to most of the audience.

At today's ceremonies, your moist-eyed star will pay tribute to everyone he or she has ever met, but most of all, to Mum and Dad, without whom etc etc. The fact that, until their offspring's success, Mum and Dad had been telling them to get a decent job and settle down like any normal person, is lost in the emotion of the moment.

Now, as far as I know, neither I nor any programme I am associated with is up for any kind of award, but at this time of goodwill to all, I would like to offer thanks for services rendered over the preceding months.

Not only to the producers and directors, whose names linger longest on the screen, and not only to the writers and vision-mixers and floor-managers who have kept me talking and looking in the right direction at the right time. I would also like to pay tribute to the researchers who beaver away on such programmes as Aspel & Company and This Is Your Life (two I have chosen at random), uncovering all the juicy tit-bits in the lives of our guests, selecting the best bits from their best films.

Let me praise the people – usually women – who organise these affairs, booking cars, planes, hotels, meals, arranging entertainments and receptions, seeing the whole frantic enterprise through to a happy ending.

Warm thanks are due to the autocue operator, who puts the words we speak onto a moving toilet roll, which is then magically projected between the speaker and the lens of the camera. I am also extremely grateful to the girl who puts the words in the Big Red Book. The words, I can now tell you, are almost as big as the book itself. My eyesight has reached the trombone-playing stage; scripts are moved backwards and forwards until the print comes into focus. Rather than have me wear glasses, my friend has discovered, or developed a typewriter which produces huge letters. I can see them clearly, the only unfortunate side-effect being that she can squeeze in no more than three words to a page ('This is Your – turn over – Life')

The make-up department work daily miracles, transforming tired old men into vibrant youngsters. They also make me up. Apart from the routine applications of two buckets of Polyfilla under the eyes and reducing the redness of my nose, they are occasionally called on to do a real cosmetic job. They love this.

When I surprised Paul Daniels dressed as a Chinaman (me, not him), I could hardly lift my head for wigs, moustaches and general Oriental slap. I was quite unrecognisable and, some thought, greatly improved.

Another time, for a TV documentary, they changed me, without surgery, into Cyrano de Bergerac. By the time they had finished, and I had climbed into the costume, I had become the man – swashbuckling, dynamic, a magnet to women. I went to the bar and stood beside people I had known for 20 years; they thought I was some pushy actor. I winked at tough old broadcasting matrons; they blushed prettily.

The wardrobe department always respond enthusiastically to a challenge. They have, over the years, fitted me out as (apart from the aforementioned mandarin) a vampire, a mountaineer, an airline pilot, a busker, a ringmaster, and on one mortifying occasion as Sooty.

Now let me present television's unsung heroes; the drivers. These are the men who are entrusted with the lives and prompt delivery of each programme's guests. An interesting group – ex-policemen, restaurateurs, captains of industry – they perform well beyond the call of duty.

Example: our subject on This Is Your Life one week was an international singing star who had to be brought, not a moment before the appointed time, to a certain hotel. The traffic was thin, the lights were all green. It soon became apparent that the subject was going to be delivered too soon, and the plan would be ruined. Our hero deliberately took wrong turnings, stopped for petrol, stalled the engine and took a great deal of abuse from his precious cargo. To defuse the situation, he announced that company policy was, the more important the passenger, the slower he must drive. Such inspiration deserves a medal; all he got was a sandwich and a late night.

And my final thanks go to the proprietors of the various establishments where we have held our end-of-series parties. What happened at the Moonlight Tango Cafe in Los Angeles must remain a secret. Pity. I would have liked to go back there one day. See you.