Celebrities choose the TV moments that have shaped their lives. Former politician and Strictly star Ann Widdecombe goes through the classic TV moments of her past.
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Telly, that magic box in the corner.
It gives us access to a million different worlds,
all from the comfort of our sofa.
In this series, I'm going to journey through the fantastic world
of TV with some of our favourite celebrities.
They've chosen the precious TV moments that shed light...
-She seems like a nice girl, though.
Look at that!
..on the stories of their lives.
# Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew
# Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub! #
Some are funny...
-Could you do the chanting?
-I could do...
Nyow, nyow, nyow...
I was mortified.
Some are inspiring.
I am not a number, I am a free man!
Did George Orwell get his predictions right?
It's all so dramatic!
..are deeply moving.
'And heads down the beach towards almost certain death.'
All of us, weeping!
So come watch with us as we hand-pick the vintage telly that
helped turn our much-loved stars into the people they are today.
Welcome to The TV That Made Me.
My guest today has done it all.
She is a novelist, documentary maker,
agony aunt and a former government minister.
In fact, she has pulled off the impossible.
Because the truly awesome
Ann Widdecombe is a politician we are actually very fond of.
The TV that made her includes...
Power dressing and bed hopping in the boat-building saga Howards' Way.
Why? Mark's not coming back till later.
You mean he SAID he wasn't coming back till later.
The mother of all raucous rock and roll shows.
# Old King Cole was a merry old soul
# And a merry old soul was he. #
And the crime busting adventures of a sleuth...
in a surplice.
-Has anything been taken?
-No, nothing has been taken.
How can you be so sure?!
It can only be the one and only, the legend - Ann Widdecombe -
-with us today.
-Are you happy to be here?
I am very happy to be here.
-We are happy you are here.
Because you are formidable.
-I must say, I am a bit nervous to be in your company.
-Yes, you should be.
So, was the young Widdecombe too busy to watch TV?
Well, interestingly, I didn't see any television until I was nine
because my father was with the Admiralty
and so we used to move around every two to three years.
When I was five, we moved to Singapore.
And when I came back from Singapore,
that was the first time I saw television.
And I was nearly nine.
So what did you think of TV when you first saw it at the age of nine?
I was very excited by it because, of course, the only thing
I had seen that was remotely similar was the cinema, you know,
film on the big screen.
And so it seemed to me that here I had my own little cinema almost,
in this little box in the corner.
I was vastly excited by it.
-Yeah? We want to go back to the beginning now...
..and just see a little bit more,
and find out a little bit more about the young Ann Widdecombe.
Ann Widdecombe is the daughter of Rita and James Widdecombe, MBE.
And sister of devoted older brother Malcolm,
who would later study theology and become a priest.
She enjoyed a well-travelled childhood,
as Dad's took the family as far afield as Singapore.
But home was always England.
And in 1956, the family returned, living first
in rural Sussex before finally settling in Bath,
where Ann attended a strict convent school.
Ann, what was life like back then?
The young Ann, at home, your lounge?
It was a very safe, very secure and totally free life.
Children could go off, and they did.
They could go off all day, playing.
We had no mobile phones. We had no means of contacting our parents.
-Parents never worried. It was a very, very safe life.
And I used to go off with friends.
We used to go into the woods and have Enid Blyton-style
adventures. In our imagination, course.
And we used to take picnics.
Providing we came back at the time specified by our parents,
which was likely to be six o'clock at night, nobody worried.
Nobody wondered where we were.
Was there anything weekly that you would religiously watch?
There was the weekly play.
And then on a Saturday, of course, there was Six-Five Special.
So The Six-Five Special, that was something very special for you?
-Believe it or not, at 6.05.
Well, why was it called that?
It would start at five past six.
And it was the first, I suppose,
of the pop programmes that went on to Juke Box Jury and things like that.
Would you like to see a little moment from The Six-Five Special?
-With Pete Murray, yes, I would.
This, ladies and gentlemen,
is The Six-Five Special.
# The Six-Five Special Steaming down the line
-# Down the line... #
-Go on, Ann.
# The Six-Five Special Right on time... #
# Everybody do the rock!
The Six-Five Special isn't referring to a train full of cool musicians
steaming into our living rooms.
It refers to the start time.
In 1957, it was the very first show to fill the hour-long gap
the BBC placed in the schedule between six and seven
so parents could get their kids to bed.
It was also Britain's first live music show,
pointing the way to the '60s three years before they happen.
# Everybody do the roll. #
-So this was your Top of the Pops, really.
In those days, indeed, yes.
I can remember skiffle was a very big thing.
You know, with washboards.
So, in those days, you wouldn't get up and have a little jig?
Oh, no, absolutely not. No.
-No. It wouldn't appeal. Just wouldn't appeal.
So it was much later on, obviously...
Yeah, I think we were in the '60s with the twist before I found much
appeal in dancing.
In any way, what would it take
for you to dance now?
-Oh, pretty well nothing.
-I couldn't get you up to have a little jig?
-You absolutely couldn't. Good.
That's clear, is it? Good.
-Well, I tried.
-I tried, you know.
-The Six-Five Special...
-..had many, many guest appearances from many stars.
-Yes, it did.
We wanted to put you to the test now and see
-if you could name some of the people...
-I wouldn't be able to.
-Well, who knows? You don't know.
-Have a look at these pictures.
-Who do we think that is?
-I think that is either a very young...
-Mm-hm, possibly. Or?
-Or a very young...
Well, it's not Kathy Kirby. I don't know, no.
You'll kick yourself.
-Go on, tell me.
-Strewth! Is that Pet Clark?
Let's try the next one now.
Have a look at this one, tell me who you think this might be.
You'll get this.
Almost before my time, yep.
Oh, that has got to be Helen Shapiro.
You will be absolutely amazed when I tell you that is a very,
-very young Shirley Bassey.
It is, isn't it? Isn't it amazing?
Good heavens! I wouldn't have got that.
I would've got that as Helen Shapiro. Yeah, right. OK.
-Well, there you are, you see? I got them all wrong.
-you proved a point.
# Everybody do the rock and roll. #
With ground-breaking live performances,
The Six-Five Special ushered in a new era of pop shows that kids
thought were great but some adults thought would end the world.
ITV jumped on the pop bandwagon
in 1958 with Oh Boy!
It made the careers of bands
like The Drifters
and featured acts including
Shirley Bassey and Lonnie Donegan.
In 1963, Friday nights saw
the start of a brand-new pop series
Early shows were presented
by the brilliant Dusty Springfield,
who made sure the weekend started
with Ready Steady Go!
Not to be outdone, the BBC launched a new music show
live from a converted church in Manchester -
Top of the Pops.
Among the acts on the first episode
were The Dave Clark Five
performing Glad All Over,
which is exactly how we all felt.
Now, you were at boarding school,
-Yes, I went to boarding school.
What was it you used to watch there?
Well, there was a great innovation when we were in the third form.
We were given a common room with a television in it.
And we were allowed to watch a very restricted amount of television.
There were two things that we loved.
One was one of the very earliest soaps. It was called Compact.
It was the story of a magazine and the staff who worked on it.
The other was Dr Kildare.
And we all used to come down
from the dormitories to watch Dr Kildare.
So we had to go up to the dormitories and get into our pyjamas
and dressing gowns.
And then we were allowed down to watch Dr Kildare
so that we could go straight to bed afterwards.
We all adored Dr Kildare.
-Shall we have a little look?
See if it is still... See if you still feel that way.
Oh, hi, Lana.
I hear it's hand flapping time, daddy.
Come on in here.
-Very handsome man.
Dr Kildare was one of the first big American drama
series to play on the BBC.
With cinema standard production values,
and an impossibly handsome star
in Richard Chamberlain,
British audiences immediately
took to this foreign import.
-Lana, if there were any other way...
-(Please don't tell me.)
-Lana, you have got to listen to me.
-I don't want to hear it!
It's audience figures
soared to 15 million,
and it kept Chamber fans'
hearts beating until 1966.
-I'm surprised you could sleep at the end of one of those.
I don't remember that particular episode, but, as I say,
we used to watch Dr Kildare every single week.
I mean, it was very dramatic. Is that typical?
Oh, it was always very dramatic.
There was always some very big central drama to every episode.
So either somebody was dying or he was in a moral dilemma as to
whether he should do X or Y.
Or he had made some big mistake. Whatever it was.
Every week, there was some crucial drama.
Mm-hm. Was he a renegade? Bending the rules, do you think?
Actually, very often he wasn't.
And I remember there was one episode,
quite a long way into Dr Kildare,
so I think I was much older when I saw it,
but there was one episode where he had to make a choice
that if he gave evidence in a particular way,
it was going to deny a child compensation.
But if he told the absolute,
he would have to do that.
So it was an interesting dilemma.
-Did it make you want to become a doctor?
I was useless at science. I really was.
I was always good at classics - Latin and Greek. I was good at English.
I was good at history.
But I was useless, useless, useless at maths and science.
And if I had said I wanted to be a doctor,
the nuns would still be laughing now.
You expect the two men to comfort each other?
Dr Kildare proved that there is no moral dilemma too big
to be faced by TV medics.
And actors love to play them as much as we love to watch them.
The BBC's home-grown answer to Kildare came in 1962
in the form of Bill Simpson's
Dr Finlay and his casebook.
He faced weekly dramas
in the fictional Scottish town
The homeliness of Dr Finlay
was left far behind
when the nurses of Angels
appeared on our screens in 1975.
Fiona Fullerton and her team dealt
with hard-hitting dramas
in and out of hospital.
In 1986, a medical series
came along that proved
the possibilities of a drama set
in a medical community are endless.
From the early days of Charlie Fairhead
and Megan Roche to today's
medical team led by Connie Beauchamp,
Casualty is the longest running
emergency medical drama in the world.
And after 29 years,
Derek Thompson's Charlie Fairhead
is still going strong.
What was boarding school like in the '60s?
Were you a fan of it? Do you approve of it?
The one I went to was very strict, even by the standards of the age.
And so most of the other boarders -
not all of them but most of them -
And it was an age...
I think this would shock people to realise,
but the girls in my dormitory whose
parents were RAF used to see them
once a year if they were posted abroad.
-They used to be...
-Were you more fortunate than that?
I was with my parents throughout when we were on foreign postings.
But my brother wasn't so fortunate.
And indeed, it was worse in his time.
He remained behind while we were in Singapore.
But they didn't even allow them out once a year then.
-How long did you not see your brother for?
It was a three-year tour. So... And that was standard.
-And was your brother much older than you?
-He was ten years older than me.
We were pre-war and post-war,
or as he always says - quality and utility.
Now, your next choice is Cadfael.
-Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yes. Cadfael is a detective monk
in medieval times.
So a great deal of the action is actually set in the monastery,
but he is investigating crimes - murders of course -
from the perspective of somebody
who didn't have today's fingerprints
and DNA and all the rest of it.
What he did have was a great knowledge of herbs.
He was a herbalist.
And much of his detective work was done through his herbalism.
So it is a wonderful story. I love Derek Jacobi as an actor.
He is one of my favourite actors.
And he really brings Cadfael to life.
Well, let's have a little look at this, then.
Mr Jacobi in Cadfael.
He is superb.
Brother Cadfael, Uncle died without absolution.
So do many. You mustn't let it fret you, child.
Penitence is in the heart.
Brother Cadfael first appeared in the medieval murder mystery
by author Ellis Peters in 1977.
He is a Benedictine monk,
but he's also a bit of a dark horse. As well as being a herbalist,
he has also been a soldier and a sailor.
It is this worldly knowingness
that Jacobi captures so perfectly.
It was a superb series. I have got the box set.
I have to give it a few years in between viewing,
because otherwise I remember too much who did it.
But there is always some new thing
that I spot whenever I watch Cadfael.
Now, how many times have you watched it, then?
-Your box set.
-My box set, I would think about three.
-Well, has anything been taken?
-No, nothing has been taken.
How can you be so sure?!
Sir Derek Jacobi is the very definition of a class act.
And he shines in roles that need both brains
and a proper copper-bottomed pedigree.
He is, of course, the emperor
Claudius in the now legendary
adaptation of I, Claudius
in the 1970s.
He regaled us with King Richard II
before giving us his Hamlet,
Prince of Denmark, in 1980,
both in the BBC's equally legendary
television Shakespeare series.
In 2007, came Dr Who,
where he finally revealed his true
identity as, of course, The Master.
But even after all that, for many of us, he'll always be...Cadfael.
A common thief?!
Who steals nothing?
Your sense of justice, I think, comes through.
A lot of programmes in those days were about moral dilemmas, yeah.
Do you miss that?
Um, yes. I think, in a way, I do.
I think modern television is essentially trivial.
Some of the very big dilemmas that face humanity,
they don't get a look in.
So, when you were younger,
was it always a career in politics or did you fancy other things?
I think when I was 11, Yuri Gagarin went into space.
And I think for a while every other child wanted to be an astronaut.
And I was inspired for some while to be a missionary,
because you used to get the heroic missionary tales.
And then, after that, I think an ornithologist because there was
somebody in Enid Blyton's books who wanted to be an ornithologist.
And then, as I settled down into reality, for many, many years,
-I wanted to be a teacher.
-And so, eventually, you got into politics.
Eventually, I both aspired to and became a politician, yes. Eventually.
Right, well, we're moving on now
to something that is very different,
with a different standard, and this is one of your guilty pleasures.
-And it is a programme called Howards' Way.
-Now, Howards' Way... We must now be talking '80s or '90s.
And I only saw it... Cos I didn't have a television.
From the moment that I left home until the moment
that my mother came to live with me after my father's death...
So we're talking from probably the '70s to the '90s?
We are talking from the mid-'70s
And my mother came to live with me in 1999.
-I did not have a television in the house.
-Did you miss it?
-No, not at all.
-Not at all?
The only time I saw television
was when I went home at weekends.
Or on visits.
And Howards' Way was a great parental favourite.
When I was at home, we all watched this programme.
And I quite enjoyed Howards' Way.
But of course, I wasn't going home every weekend,
so I would miss sort of vast tranches of it.
And not very long ago, it came out as a box set.
And I thought, "I'll see the whole thing through,"
which of course, I had never done.
And so I got Howards' way, and I watched it.
And I managed to fill in all the bits I hadn't seen.
But it was a great favourite of my father's.
Of course, ships, boats, you know, the things he loved.
And it was a huge favourite of his.
And so we used to watch it.
And it was certainly must-see TV.
A bit raunchy?
When I saw it on the box set, I thought,
"Oh, I don't remember those bits."
But the bits I saw were largely sailing and that sort of stuff.
But, yes, there was a lot of THAT in it. Yep.
Well, um, hopefully, there is not a lot of THAT
in this little moment from Howards' Way.
Will we be partners?
I don't want a partner.
Maybe you got one.
-Since I first saw you.
And they're kissing.
Well, that's all right.
And people speak to each other quietly.
You know, there is none of this awful confrontational shouting that
you get in modern drama.
And you can hear what they say, the diction is good.
So they are speaking quietly and they have good diction.
-Oh, how do I wish that were universal today!
Howards' Way launched in 1985
and was seen as the BBC's answer
to Dynasty or Dallas.
It may not have been as glossy,
but it did have characters who loved
money, schemed and slept around.
They just did it very near to,
or actually on,
not very big boats.
Howards' Way was on, I believe, when you first became a politician.
Was it a bit of light relief?
I think it almost certainly was round about that time, yes.
I imagine it was light relief.
I just remember it as when I went home,
when I visited my parents.
Which, once I became a politician, I did less and less often.
So maybe that is why major incidents in the series passed me by.
I think I'd better go.
Why? Mark is not coming back till later.
-I'm not sure what that is all about.
-No, nor am I. You needn't watch.
-Shall I advert my eyes?
-Yeah, you can look up to the ceiling.
Maybe you can be sure the coast is clear.
-Well, I'm not watching, so I wouldn't know.
Shall I pressed pause then?
I thought you were going to press delete.
-Well, you've got the box set.
I have indeed got the box set.
So if I could bring you on to Strictly, Strictly Come Dancing...
-It was hugely successful for you.
-Of course it was, yes.
I want to know how they approached you.
You got a phone call? You asked them?
They came to me every year
for five years, from 2004 till 2009.
Every year, Strictly came to me.
And every year, I said "No, go away. I'm not doing it."
But then two things happened.
The first was I saw John Sergeant doing it.
And the second thing that happened was I retired.
And suddenly, I no longer owed anybody any duty of time or dignity.
And I thought, "I can do it this year. I can actually do it."
So I did.
But there is no denying that it took courage.
You are going out live to well in the region of 12 million people.
And I think it was a huge decision
and I think you made a lot of people happy.
-Well, I am glad I did.
-Oh, you did.
-I'm glad I did.
You made me and my family very happy.
This is Ann Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing.
Oh, that is the paso doble. That's the one where I get dragged.
MUSIC: Wild Thing by The Troggs
-Wonderful dancer, isn't he?
Look at him, he's pulling me, yeah? Only way you can do it.
Look at him, he is actually turning me.
Ann Widdecombe, that is...
Oh, isn't that wonderful?
That poor guy, look what he is having to move.
Is he cleaning the floor with you? I mean, what is he doing there?
I think he is just hoovering up.
Oh, bless you.
Does it... Do you... Did you enjoy the freedom?
I loved it. I loved it. As I say, I loved the absence of responsibility.
I loved the fun. I loved the audience's reaction.
As I say, I didn't expect it to last more than three weeks
when I agreed to do it.
I really didn't. And it all took off and...
Round about week five, I was thinking to myself,
-"Actually, I want to stay in this."
And then week seven was the only week that we didn't get a standing
ovation, and I thought, "This is it, they're tired of us."
But they weren't.
We went on another three weeks after that.
And it was tremendous. I loved it.
Did you have an issue with the dress?
Um, I had an issue with the cape that they originally provided,
which was long and black.
Made me look like an advertisement for Scottish widows.
So I said, "I am not wearing that." You had a veto.
And I said, "I'm not wearing that."
So they came up with this little red thing instead.
But, I mean, the dress that I really remember was the one
I christened Big Bird. It was the one we used at Blackpool.
It was bright yellow!
And it was covered with all these yellow feathers.
And as soon as I saw it, I thought, "Big Bird!"
But no, certainly wouldn't want to wear any of them.
-No? You haven't got any in the wardrobe?
They all get sold in the United States.
-We don't get to keep them.
-I wouldn't want to keep them.
-Still friends with Anton?
Still friends with Anton. Still friends with Craig, actually,
cos, of course, I went on to do
the live tour with Craig
and then two pantomimes.
And in between the pantomimes,
I was actually on at the Royal Opera House.
I mean, I can't believe what came out of Strictly Come Dancing!
-I mean, it is all pantomime with Craig Revel Horwood.
I think he is... He is just a wonderful man.
-I've worked with him.
-He has got a huge sense of humour.
But do you think for you possibly a career on stage would have
been an option?
I don't think so.
I had huge fun following Strictly, and I really enjoyed it,
and I enjoyed appearing on stage.
And I only ever once forgot a line.
But on the other hand, I often reminded Craig about his lines.
Of course, the great joy of pantomime is it is not Shakespeare.
-And if something goes wrong, you can quickly recover from it.
And so I did enjoy it. But I don't fool myself that I am an actor.
I am a performer, I am not an actor. There's a difference.
There is a difference.
What do you watch now? Going full circle.
What sort of things do you enjoy watching on TV?
I don't watch that much. I love Foyle's War.
And having had to watch the repeats,
I was delighted when they updated
Foyle's War and they introduced
some post-war stuff.
And that was great fun.
But if you are up for a little bit of escapism,
what might you watch that might cheer you up?
Oh, if I was in total escapism mode, then I watch Heartbeat.
I actually quite like it
as the end of the working day.
It comes on at 5.45.
if I have been working all day, I think,
"Well now, why not a gin and tonic and Heartbeat?"
You have been so incisive,
so interesting. Have you enjoyed it?
I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
What we do want is to give you the choice to give a theme tune
for us to go out with this afternoon. So what would it be?
Well, it is one that we haven't discussed,
but we really must have it.
Dixon Of Dock Green.
Dixon Of Dock Green it is. Thank you.
You see, if I only had the ability to hear music.
-That's it. That's the one.
-Something like that.
-That's the one.
You'll hear it for real now.
-My many thanks to Ann Widdecombe.
-Thank you for watching.
We'll see you next time on TV That Made Me.
This is Dixon Of Dock Green.
MUSIC: Dixon Of Dock Green Theme
Legendary entertainer Brian Conley takes former politician and Strictly star Ann Widdecombe back through the classic TV moments that helped make her that rarest of creatures, a former government minister we are actually fond of.
Ann treats us to a host of small-screen classics, from medieval monk detective Cadfael to steamy scenes in the boat yards of Howards' Way. But what part did the swinging tunes of the Six Five Special and the smouldering looks of Dr Kildare play in shaping her into the person she is today?