This Is Your Life set for return
This Is Your Life Big Red Book
related pages...

BBC News Online 6 October 2005

This Is Your Life set for return

This Is Your Life could be returning to screens after a production company bought the rights to the show.

Michael Aspel quit the long-running programme in 2003, leaving it facing an uncertain future.

Now SMG TV is reviving the format with a pilot episode with a new as-yet-unnamed presenter.

Managing director Elizabeth Partyka said that although details had to be decided "we can safely say that we'll be keeping the red book".

She added: "Our development team are currently looking at ways of refreshing the series, giving it a new look and bringing in a brand new presenter, who has yet to be confirmed."

Based on a US format, the show was one of the longest-running on British television, starting on the BBC in 1955 with Eamonn Andrews.

The programme's host - carrying its trademark big red book - surprises a celebrity, then takes them back to a studio for a discussion about their life, where they are reunited with old colleagues and family members.

It was axed in 1964, but Andrews fronted a revival on ITV in 1969, made by Thames Television.

Aspel took over as presenter in 1987 when Andrews died.

The programme moved back to the BBC in 1994.

North Wales Daily Post 7 October 2005


THIS Is Your Life is set for a comeback.

The show, axed by the BBC in 2003 after 48 years, is to be revived with a new host holding the famous red book.

It will be given a revamp to appeal to modern audiences.

Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel previously presented the series, which began in 1955.

Production company SMG TV has acquired the exclusive UK rights to the format and hope to have it on screens in the New Year.

Managing director Elizabeth Partyka said: "Our development team are currently looking at ways of refreshing the series, giving it a new look and bringing in a brand new presenter, who has yet to be confirmed. Lots of details have still to be decided at this stage, but I think we can safely say that we'll be keeping the red book."

The company will make a pilot programme before offering it to broadcasters.

The show began 50 years ago with Eamonn Andrews at the helm until his death in 1987.

Michael Aspel took over the following year and hosted the show until 2003.

By that time the programme makers were having difficulty persuading younger celebrities to take part.

Oasis star Noel Gallagher is said to have told them: "Stuff your red book" when approached about appearing on the show.

The Express 7 October 2005


BYLINE: By Mark Jagasia Showbusiness Editor

ONE of Britain's most famous books could soon be reopened as TV bosses plan a return of This Is Your Life.

Two years after the small screen favourite was axed for being "too outdated" This Is Your Life looks set to be preying on celebrities once again.

The move marks the 50th anniversary since Eamonn Andrews first opened his Big Red Book.

But fans will be treated to an entirely new format and presenter to replace Michael Aspel, who took over from Andrews in 1988.

The new show is being made by ClickTV, which owns the rights to the programme, before it is then pitched to all the major channels.

In the past celebrities would be "ambushed" and handed the Big Red Book before being told: "This Is Your Life".

The star was then whisked back to the studio to be welcomed by old friends, long lost relatives and past and present colleagues.

But with the rise of celebrity magazines and the internet, the life histories of famous people have become far more accessible and less surprising.

There is also more appetite for reality TV to reveal the lives of the stars. The show was imported from the US in 1955 and more than 1,000 episodes aired.

Andrews would often go to great lengths to surprise stars. He dressed up as an astronaut to catch out stargazer Patrick Moore and even as an airline steward for Shirley Bassey. At the height of the show it could regularly attract audiences of 20 million viewers.

But when the last edition was broadcast in August 2003 - for former choirboy Aled Jones - just 3.5 million people bothered to watch.

Other stars who were caught out included Muhammad Ali, Dudley Moore and Douglas Bader.

However, it didn't always go so well. It was also turned down on various occasions, by celebs including footballer Danny Blanchflower, author Richard Gordon and former Goodie Bill Oddie.

The Mirror 7 October 2005


THIS Is Your Life is set to make a return to TV, it was revealed yesterday.

The format faces change to appeal to modern audiences - but the famous red book will remain.

The BBC dumped the programme in 2003 after 48 years. Eamonn Andrews and later Michael Aspel were the presenters.

Production firm SMG TV bought the exclusive UK rights and say they aim to "refresh" the series.

But managing director Elizabeth Partyka added: "I think we can safely say we'll keep the red book."

A pilot will be offered to broadcasters. A presenter has yet to be named.

The Scotsman 7 October 2005


THIS is Your Life, the pioneering programme that was a national institution for nearly 50 years as presenters Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel ambushed unwitting celebrities with the famous red book, is poised for a comeback.

The production arm of Glasgow-based Scottish Media Group has bought the rights to the show, dropped two years ago by the BBC, and is working on a new version which it will offer to UK broadcasters.

Elizabeth Partyka, managing director of SMG TV Productions, said: "Our development team are currently looking at ways of refreshing the series, giving it a new look and bringing in a brand new presenter, who has yet to be confirmed."

"Lots of details have still to be decided at this stage, but I think we can safely say that we'll be keeping the red book."

The revival represents the latest chapter in the saga of a programme first broadcast in Britain in 1955 and which ran to more than 1,000 editions.

Originally developed for NBC in the United States, This Is Your Life attracted audiences of 20 million at its peak as British viewers warmed to the inventive ways used by Andrews to stalk his celebrity targets.

The presenter posed as a wine waiter in 1972 to pounce on the broadcaster David Frost, passed himself off as an airline steward to surprise the singer Shirley Bassey and pretended to be an astronaut to snare astronomer Patrick Moore.

The programme secured a memorable coup on Christmas Day 1978, with a special featuring Muhammad Ali. Other guests included Joan Collins, Dudley Moore and Lord Mountbatten

Several of the show's guests went on to achieve notoriety after they received the red book. Jeffrey Archer was a guest in 1981 and the unsavoury private life of Gary Glitter was still to be revealed when he starred in 1992.

After the BBC decided the format had run its course, This Is Your Life was broadcast on ITV from 1969 to 1993. Aspel took over in 1988 after Andrews's death, and took the show back to the BBC in 1994.

However, critics accused the programme of looking tired in later years and suggested it was being forced to trawl the stable of B-list celebrities for guests, in contrast to its ITV glory days.

SMG executives say they want to return the programme to the era of "high-profile guests" and will be looking for a nationally known presenter. While the new presenter has yet to be named, personalities such as Jonathan Ross and former GMTV host Eamonn Holmes have been mentioned.

Western Mail 7 October 2005


THIS Is Your Life is set for a comeback.

The show - axed by the BBC in 2003 after 48 years - is to be revived with a new host holding the famous red book.

Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel previously presented the series, which began in 1955.

Production company SMG TV has acquired the exclusive UK rights to the format and hopes to have it on screens in the new year.

The company will make a pilot programme before offering it to broadcasters.

The show ended in 2003 because programme makers were having difficulty persuading younger celebrities to take part.

The People 16 July 2006



TONY Blair will be the first guest on a revival of telly classic This Is Your Life.

TV bosses hope the Prime Minister, 53, will pull in huge audiences for the show, due to be screened later this year.

A source revealed: "There will be lots of very personal memories, intimate and funny moments and blasts from the past to surprise him."

"Viewers will see Tony in a different light as he shows his personal side."

Mr Blair will be by far the most famous guest on the biographical show, launched in 1955 and axed 2003. Trevor McDonald will present the new series on ITV.

Its previous hosts were Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel.

Daily Star 23 September 2006

This Is Your Life, Simon Cowell

X FACTOR boss Simon Cowell is to be the first guest on the new series of the revamped This Is Your Life.

The famous TV show - which was hosted by the late Eamonn Andrews, and Michael Aspel - is being brought back.

Newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald, 67, is to front the new ITV series which celebrates the lives of celebs. And record chief and tough-talking talent spotter Simon, 46, is to be the first recipient of the famous red book.

A source said: "Simon's the ideal big name for our first show when we return."

"He's had a colourful rags-to-riches life."

Other stars lined up for the new series - due later this year - include David Beckham, 31 and Sir Paul McCartney, 64.

The Bristol Post 6 February 2007

The men behind the big red book

Maurice Fells takes a look at the success story of This Is Your Life, which ran for almost 50 years.

FOUR words spoken by an Irishman, carrying a red book, gripped a nation of television viewers every Monday night during the 1950s, and during the following decades.

"This is your life", were among the opening words of a programme in which Eamonn Andrews accosted an unsuspecting celebrity to retell his or her life story before a studio audience.

After the stirring theme tune Gala Performance, Eamonn was helped by a sundry collection of the subject's former colleagues and long-forgotten friends with memories from their pre-celebrity lives.

The researchers were often helped by the subject's nearest and dearest, who had been sworn to secrecy.

The programme, which attracted record viewing audiences, was created by Ralph Edwards for American audiences in 1952.

He was flown over from the USA to conduct the inaugural programme but, after the Daily Sketch, a national tabloid paper now long defunct, had spoiled the launch by revealing that the subject was to be footballing legend Stanley Matthews, a new "victim" had to be found.

Eamonn Andrews expected boxer Freddie Mills to be the new target for the first programme in 1955, but instead it turned out to be Andrews himself, with Ralph Edwards presenting the programme.

The producers of This Is Your Life have never knowingly presented the red book to anyone who knew about it in advance.

A local paper blew the story that television presenter Anne Diamond was to be surprised live on air. The show was postponed and months of work written off.

Each This Is Your Life subject was given a code name. The first thing most subjects asked at the party after the programme was: "What did you call me?"

Some code names include Todd for Claire Sweeney, First for Michael Winner, Hat (Paul Young) and Baz (Shaun Williamson).

Bristol's Olympic figure-skating gold medallist Robin Cousins was given the codename of Lake. This referred to Lake Placid, where Cousins won his medal in 1980.

When Robin, from Sea Mills, returned to Bristol from the Olympics, he was given an open-top bus tour of Bristol, which ended up at the Council House where he was congratulated by the Lord Mayor in front of a crowd of thousands of well-wishers.

Unknown to Robin, all this was being filmed by the This Is Your Life production team.

The well-wishers looked on almost spellbound as Eamonn Andrews bounded on to the dais, interrupted the Lord Mayor's speech, and surprised Cousins with his trademark phrase "This Is Your Life".

Minutes before, he had been on the roof of the Council House with a cameraman looking down on College Green and filming aerial shots of Robin's arrival.

All this, known by the producers as the "pick up", was filmed and screened at the start of This Is Your Life.

Robin was taken to the HTV studios at Brislington where the show was recorded. Some of the guests on the programme had been on the open-top bus but no one spilled the beans.

The secrecy was such that television vans on College Green were camouflaged.

Not every celebrity welcomed being a target.

Footballer Danny Blanchflower was among those who tossed the "surprise" format on its head in the 1950s by walking off in a mixture of embarrassment and anger at the invasion of what he regarded as personal privacy.

Author Richard Gordon, said "no" live on air in 1974, but was persuaded to stay for a show that was broadcast a week later.

Bill Oddie was also persuaded after his initial reluctance.

The BBC axed the programme in 1964, much to the chagrin of not only Eamonn Andrews but to the millions of viewers who were attracted by the 6ft-tall Irishman's mischievous grin and Gaelic charm.

The programme was re-launched in 1969 on ITV, where it continued to draw ratings-topping audiences.

After Eamonn's untimely death in 1987, the programme was presented by David Nixon, [ editor: this is incorrect - David Nixon presented only one edition - when Eamonn Andrews was himself a subject, for the second time, in 1974] who had been a panellist on What's My Line, which was chaired by Eamonn, and then Michael Aspel.

Michael himself had been surprised by Eamonn's big red book in 1980.

It was not only film, stage, radio and television personalities that were targeted by This Is Your Life.

Unsung war heroes, servicemen and women, community leaders and politicians all came under the programme's spotlight.

The youngest person ever to be surprised was the Sixties' model Twiggy, who was 19 at the time.

[ editor: Actually, the youngest ever subject appeared in the original BBC period (1955-1964): David Butler, who lost his legs in a mortar bomb explosion, was the programme's youngest subject at the age of 17. He was surprised in his headmaster's study in March 1962]

Altogether there were 1,000 episodes of the programme. Michael Aspel closed the red book for the last time three years ago.

The Mirror 2 June 2007



IT all began for you in 1955 after the BBC brought you over from America. Luring stars of screen and stage to your sofa, 20 million of us watched as you took them on a trip down memory lane. You even found time to honour the less famous - from vicars to orphanage wardens.

Now, after four years away, you're back tonight on ITV1 at 9.25pm with a new glitzy awards ceremony format, when your famous Red Book will be honouring acid-tongued Simon Cowell.

So This Is Your Life, this is your life...

YOU got off to a bad start when your first show in 1955 was ruined. Footballer Stanley Matthews was due to appear but the show was pulled when The Daily Sketch newspaper leaked the story and ruined the surprise.

PRODUCERS had to think quickly to save you, eventually surprising presenter Eamonn Andrews by giving him your Red Book. The show's US host Ralph Edwards did the honours.

EAMONN was one of only a handful of guests you honoured twice - including Simon Cowell (2003 and tonight) and Spike Milligan (1973 and 1995).

EAMONN'S hilarious attempts at surprising celebrities shot you to fame. He even disguised himself as an astronaut to meet star spotter Patrick Moore in 1974.

HE nabbed David Frost (1972) by posing as a wine waiter and was tied in a sack a year later to trap magician David Nixon.

IN Rome, Eamonn posed as a traffic policeman for Eurovision host Katie Boyle in 1982. His cover was nearly blown when some Japanese tourists asked him for directions.

EAMONN had his audience in stitches again when he dressed as an airline steward to meet singer Shirley Bassey in 1972.

YOU narrowly averted disaster in 1985 when Eamonn tried to surprise former Desert Rat Bill Roache on the set of Coronation Street - not once, but twice. Eamonn dressed as an Arab but his cover was blown when his camel broke wind as Bill (Ken Barlow) left the Rovers. Then Eamonn lost the Red Book while waiting for Bill and a red accountant's ledger was used.

BUT not all of your stunts have been as happy. One of your lowest points was in 1961 when football legend Danny Blanchflower ran away. Spotting Eamonn and his book, Danny fled the studio, later explaining: "I consider this programme an invasion of privacy."

AND the bad times were back in 1974, when Doctor In The House author Richard Gordon refused to appear live on air. When Gordon heard the catchphrase "This is your life," he responded: "Oh, balls, it's not." But he was persuaded to appear by his family a week later.

COMIC and twitcher Bill Oddie wasn't too keen on you at the start either. He refused to appear in 2002 until his family and friends convinced him.

YOU paid tribute to the young as well as old - the model Twiggy was just 19 in the 1969 show.

YOU were always secretive, even giving your guests codenames in case the surprise was ruined. Singer and presenter Claire Sweeney (2002) was Todd and EastEnders star Martin Kemp (1999) was Petrol.

YOU always tried to avoid controversy but that didn't stop you honouring Gary Glitter in 1992 before his sex shame was revealed, and disgraced peer Jeffrey Archer in 1981 before he was jailed for perjury.

YOU brought love into lives. After appearing together to pay tribute to the warden of the Aberlour Orphanage where they grew up, orphans Danny and Ethel Morris fell in love and were married a year later.

BUT there were a few close shaves too. One guest arrived with his mistress in a hotel bar the evening before he was "hit" by the crew - while his wife and children waited in another room.

THEN there was the time you nearly cost Ronnie Barker his marriage. The comedian was convinced his wife was having an affair when he found a phone number with the name Brian on it. He called it and researcher Brian said: "Hello, This Is Your Life..." The marriage was saved but the show had to be cancelled.

ACTOR Douglas Fairbanks Jr's appearance had to be cancelled when his wife said the strain of keeping it secret was making her ill. She demanded her husband be told or the show ditched - the show was ditched.

AND you almost put an impostor on the show. One episode was scrapped when producers - planning to feature a war hero - realised the real hero was the man's dead twin brother. The man had been pretending to be his twin for 40 years.

YOU mystified some of your guests, including Lord Mountbatten of Burma who had never heard of you. In 1977, he responded to your catchphrase by asking: "What do you mean?"

COMEDIAN Ernie Wise was convinced he saw his cousin in the toilets at Television Centre before he was surprised in 1990 but decided he had imagined it.

SOMETIMES you were shocking, like the time in 1975 when Z Cars actor Frank Windsor told off-colour gags and fell under a table in tears.

BUT perhaps the worst time in your life was the death of your legendary presenter Eamonn Andrews in 1987. Many thought you wouldn't pull through, but you did.

ONLY just though, as Michael Aspel's first show in 1988 nearly ended in disaster when actor Barry Foster yelled: "You know what you can do with that book!" [ editor: Actually Michael's first broadcasted show featured Mickey Rooney; Barry Foster was surprised in 1991!]

LIFE was tough on your staff too. In 1973 Spike Milligan mistook a researcher parked outside his house for a stalker and called the police - who jailed the researcher briefly!

AND even in your dotage you brought joy. In 2001 the former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown was reunited with a brother he hadn't seen for 30 years.

BUT you were shocked when Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher blasted you as "naff". He even reportedly told Michael "where he could stuff his Red Book" after you invited him on in 2001.

YOU finally lost your way in 2003, after more than 1,000 episodes. Host Michael Aspel announced he was leaving on the episode for Simon Cowell - who is also your first star tonight.

YOUR latest host should be an old hand at this - Sir Trevor McDonald was honoured in 1990.

The Sun 2 June 2007

BYLINE: Claire Brand

This Is Your Life ITV1 Saturday

Simon Cowell joins the list of honoured stars

The legendary 'Big Red Book' has a new name in it! Music producer and TV star Simon Cowell is joining the long list of stars who have been honoured by This Is Your Life.

Sir Trevor McDonald, who hosts this glitzy one-off special, flew to LA to surprise Simon with the iconic book while he was filming the final of American Idol.

"It's terribly exciting," says Sir Trevor. "It is a real honour to do something that has only ever been done by two great men - This Is Your Life's previous hosts, Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel."

This hour-long show looks back at Simon's successes, with contributions from the world of showbiz and special musical performances.

Surprising the recipient and keeping it all a secret until the big moment was, as ever, a major challenge for the production team.

Sir Trevor, 67, was amazed when he was presented with his This Is Your Life book in a restaurant in 1990.

"I remember it with great fondness," he smiles. "I was sitting next to newsreader Sir Alastair Burnet and when Michael Aspel came in, I was absolutely sure it was for Alastair, not for me. It was a total surprise!"

Western Morning News (Plymouth) 4 June 2007

Old favourite's new life may be short

The familiar introduction of the theme music, the big red book, the parade of friends and family with anecdotes from the past - it can only mean This Is Your Life is back. It was first seen on British screens in 1955, having already been a hit in America, where it was conceived by Ralph Edwards.

Hosted here first by Eamonn Andrews, then by Michael Aspel, the surprise is now delivered by Sir Trevor McDonald, who looks surprisingly uncomfortable in the role, seated throughout and reading the script rather awkwardly with the book balanced on his lap.

There was very little surprise for the audience - it had already been revealed that the recipient was Simon Cowell - but "TV's Mr Nasty", as the tabloids like to call him, did look suitably shocked as he was confronted on the set of American Pop Idol in Los Angeles.

Still, he would have had plenty of time to recover as the programme was recorded in London. There were very few "real" people involved, although his family turned out in force and Max Clifford arrived with two girls from a hospice Simon has been involved in for five years without banging on about how wonderful he is in the papers.

Instead this was a very showbizzy affair with lots of plugs for his various projects - The X Factor, Pop Idol and the latest, Britain's Got Talent. We even got a song from Il Divo and X-Factor winner Leona Lewis.

Throw in Ant and Dec, Ben Elton, the American Idol judges and a few other celebrities and you have a show. It's fair to say that Cowell came across as a thoroughly nice, decent chap, albeit with an acerbic wit. He even apologised to Louis Walsh, still smarting from being sacked from The X Factor. He praised Amanda Holden and said how good she was on Britain's Got Talent, and shocked her by saying she'd only been hired because she was "cute".

American Idol judge Paula Abdul delivered a sharp tongue of her own when she said Simon called out his own name in bed.

One-liners and good deeds apart, this was a very scanty, lightweight affair. Ricky Gervais summed it up when, in a filmed tribute, he said he remembered This Is Your Life from when it was really great, then it went downhill and now they'll get anybody on it.

I wasn't amused by this show, which seemed to lose all the appeal of the originals. There was an absence of interesting anecdotes, and it was more like a summer variety show than anything meatier. If it's coming back as a series, it needs some work.

The People 21 October 2007



TV duo Ant and Dec have turned down a chance to be on This Is Your Life - because they think they are far too young.

The Geordie pals were flattered when ITV bosses suggested they could be the subject of Sir Trevor McDonald's big red book later this year.

But Ant, 31, and Dec, 32, snubbed the chance to have their lives and careers spotlighted, saying: "Thanks, but we just aren't old enough."

An insider revealed: "It wasn't meant as an insult to the show. But they look at people like Simon Cowell, who has featured on the programme twice."

"He's 48 and they think there are lots of other possible guests who have been around longer than them."

"Ant and Dec were amazingly flattered to be asked on to the show. But their first reaction was that they were not old enough."

Show bosses thought the pair would make good subjects because they have crammed so much into their careers.

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly were teenagers when they shot to fame on the BBC's Byker Grove, where they became best pals. They went from success to success and earlier this year they signed a contract with ITV worth a record £40million.

They would not have been the youngest This Is Your Life guests. Model Twiggy was only 20 when she appeared in 1969. [ editor: Actually, the youngest ever subject appeared in the original BBC period (1955-1964): David Butler, who lost his legs in a mortar bomb explosion, was the programme's youngest subject at the age of 17. He was surprised in his headmaster's study in March 1962]

Guests are now asked in advance if they want to appear on the show, which was re-launched on ITV1 in June.

They were previously ambushed by the host who suddenly appeared with the red book - and not all were pleased to be thrust into the spotlight. Hollywood actress Angie Dickinson refused to appear.

Stan Laurel, half of the legendary movie comic team Laurel and Hardy, was furious when he was tricked into appearing in the US version of the show.

This Is Your Life became a massive hit after it was launched on BBC in 1955 with Eamonn Andrews as host. Among the big names who have appeared are Muhammad Ali, Joan Collins, George Best and Barbara Windsor. Michael Aspel hosted the show when it was revived in 1969 on ITV [ editor: actually Eamonn Andrews was host when the programme was revived in 1969, and continued to host until his death in 1987; Michael Aspel hosted from 1988!].

Ant and Dec, who have collected loads of TV awards, last night said they were "truly sorry" for the way their hit show Saturday Night Takeaway got caught up in the £7.8million ITV phone-in scandal.


They vowed that profits from competitions in the next series will go to charity.

It was revealed that contest winners were hand-picked to make sure they looked good on screen. A review of ITV phone-ins found that fans of The X Factor and Soapstar Superstar were also conned.

A statement from Ant and Dec said: "We are deeply upset about what the review uncovered. The way viewers and fans have been treated isn't acceptable."

They stressed that they made no financial gain and the shows were not made by their production company.

The Mirror 15 October 2008



CELEBS, prepare to be ambushed by that big red book!

Classic family favourite This Is Your Life is heading back to UK screens.

Mark Burnett, the producer behind Survivor and The Apprentice, has launched a revamped take on the show and ITV and BBC are among those battling to buy it.

No news yet on who would be stepping into the Hush Puppies of Eamonn Andrews and Michael Aspel. Nor, of course, of who they may be surprising...