This is Your Life is a British biographical television documentary, based on the 1952 American show of the same name. It was hosted by Eamonn Andrews from 1955 until 1964, and then from 1969 until his death in 1987 aged 64. Michael Aspel then took up the role of host until the show ended in 2003. It returned in 2007 as a one-off special presented by Trevor McDonald, which to date was its most recent airing.
In the show the host surprises a special guest, before taking them through their life with the assistance of the 'big red book'. Both celebrities and non-celebrities have been 'victims' of the show. The show was originally broadcast live, and over its run it has alternated between being broadcast on the BBC and on ITV.
The surprise element was a very important part of the show; if the guest heard about the project beforehand, it would be immediately abandoned.
Links To Peel
(From John’s Jukebox: 1990s 31 August 1999)
I hadn’t done Top Of The Pops for nine years and the technology has overtaken me. And I found it a most gruelling experience, because I kept looking in the wrong places and doing the wrong things and making people go back and do everything again and again and again.
But right at the end I was thinking to myself, “If I get this link right, within ten minutes I’ll be in the car, I can listen to the second half of the match on the radio, and I can buy a bag of chips in Baldock, and be home by 10, you know.”
I could feel someone pushing really hard at my right shoulder, and I thought, “When this is over, I’m going to turn around and give them a piece of my mind.” And I turned around, and of course it is Michael Aspel with the red book.
I was very wise, because I didn’t do that thing where you kind of go, “Michael, me? Little old me?” Because I thought myself I’d be the butt of the nation’s jokes for the rest of my life if he said, “Sorry, John, not this time. This is …” You know, then: “Narvel Felts, ace cameraman, this is your life!” I though, “No, I’d never recover from that.” So I hesitated a bit, but once I realised it was me…
You know, you think when you are sitting in the pub and talking to your chums and stuff, you say, “Of course, if they ever did it to me, I’d tell them where to go.” Everybody always says that. But when it happens, a lot of things happen.
First of all, you think, “It wouldn’t have got this far if Sheila, my wife, hadn’t OK’ed it.” And then, kind of curiosity takes over, because you want to know who they’ve got.
(Studio): Sheila Ravenscroft (wife); (children) Alexandra, William, Thomas, Florence Ravenscroft; Alan, Frank Ravenscroft (brothers); David Jensen (BBC Radio One DJ, Top Of The Pops co-host); Malcolm Davis (schoolfriend); Tony Blackburn, Ed Stewart (DJs, Radio London, Radio One); Alan Freeman (BBC Radio One DJ); Andy Kershaw (BBC Radio One DJ), John Walters (Peel show producer), David Gedge (Wedding Present), Paul Whitehouse (comedian), Ken Dowe (KLIF DJ);
(Others): included Bernie Andrews (BBC, Peel show producer) (Garner p150)
Peel talked about his experience appearing on the programme on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Mediumwave, as well as with Danny Baker on BBC Radio One. After Peel's death, surprise This Is Your Life guest Ken Dowe of KLIF radio station in Dallas posted an online tribute here.
"I had to pretend to be doing a kind of interview programme for television - so it was a proper television studio and a studio audience. ... Obviously they'd applied for tickets and they they were hoping they were going to see someone like Cilla Black, you know, instead of which there was me sitting there - they must have been grievously disappointed. … So I had to go and sit there, and I'm not very good at that sort of thing at the best of times, and I am incredibly nervous, and I am thinking, "I'm going to meet Lonnie Donegan.” … I just sort of said, "Welcome to Lonnie Donegan," and we did the first little bit of film and everything and the programme was going on as though it was a proper programme, and then Michael Aspel leapt out from behind the sort of scenery and so forth, and off they went with This Is Your Life. But a proud moment in my life."