Celebrities choose the TV moments that have shaped their lives. Penny Smith journeys through the classic TV that helped shape her into one of our favourite presenters.
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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's beaten the panel...'
-Look at that!
..on the stories of their lives.
Go on, Champion! Go on, Champion.
..like, "Argh!" "Ooh!"
Some are funny...
Oh, quite amazing! Unbelievable.
No, no, no...
..some are surprising...
..some are inspiring...
-That's what kids should be doing now!
Lay a ten-pence piece on a table with a bit of sticky tape.
Look at that! Stonking.
..some turtles capsize.
..are deeply moving.
I knew that we were in the presence of history.
I am crying. I actually broke down into tears after that.
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 is a TV and radio presenter, journalist,
newspaper columnist and she has also written a few novels, too.
Penny Smith spent 17 years as the face we woke up to
on breakfast TV.
The TV that made her includes a handsome army officer...
You can't stay here.
..and a fairytale ending.
"Must horses get their feet wet?" she said.
The beautiful, the delectable, the gorgeous Penny Smith is with us.
-Penny, are you excited about this?
I am because...
Well, I'm very excited about one particular clip
because it's one of those things that I remember being
so scared of, and yet utterly riveted by.
Today is a selection of shows that we are going to show you,
that you chose, that possibly made you into the person,
shaped you into the person you are today.
But first we're going to go back to the beginning
and see a little bit more of the young Penny Smith.
Penny Smith was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire in 1958,
but grew up in rural Rutland in Lincolnshire.
Dad Graham was a salesman, whilst mum Christine
looked after Penny and her three siblings.
So, does it take you back, looking at that?
-Oh, I had such a happy childhood.
I loved it, growing up in the countryside in Rutland and
lots of cow parsley, lots of cows, sheep...
Grew up on a bicycle, virtually.
Bicycle, Wellingtons... I think I had three pairs of shoes,
we had the Wellingtons, you had your school shoes
and you had your sandals, and that was pretty much it.
In 1965, seven-year-old Penny could have been watching the future unfold
in Tomorrow's World,
Warren Mitchell airing his views as Alf Garnett
in Till Death Us Do Part
and Dudley Moore and Peter Cook's
surreal sketch show
Not Only... But Also.
So, we're going to have a look at a very early Jackanory now.
-Are you excited about it?
-Oh, yeah. Who's going to be on it?
-Some people were not quite as good as others, let's be honest.
-Let's be honest.
-You know, some people are better at reading out loud than others.
Let's have a little look if this person's any good at reading out loud.
At present, their road lay across a huge brown bog
which was called Black Feacal's Bog.
-Oh, Bernard Cribbins!
-Oh, I know.
Brilliant Jackanory reader, though, don't you think?
Oh, lovely Bernard Cribbins.
Arabel had wanted to come this way
because she'd heard that there was a dinosaur's footprint
on a small hill, right in the middle of the bog.
What do you think the secret was to being a good Jackanory presenter?
Looking like you weren't reading it
and doing different voices.
If you didn't do enough different voices, it's always confusing.
You know, I wish we had a laser beam...
Jackanory was originally developed for a six-week run,
but became a continuous fixture for over 30 years.
During that time, a galaxy of famous faces
read us 650 different stories.
Many of them would return again and again.
A firm Jackanory favourite was Kenneth Williams,
who appeared in 69 episodes.
But that's nowhere near Bernard Cribbins' record -
he notched up 111 appearances.
Arabel was surprised.
"Must horses get their feet wet?" she said.
"Well, no, but sometimes they drop their shoes in the road."
"Oh, well, Mortimer will keep a look out for that, won't you, Mortimer?"
"Aaaaaak!" said Mortimer.
Probably that's what the really good storytellers did then,
-that they made the women different enough but without being silly.
As long as they made it different enough and the accents different enough, it was always brilliant.
So, here the Jones were,
travelling at 2mph towards Great Aunt Rosie in Castle Coffee.
They had phoned her and said they might be a few days later than expected.
-It's just all those little asides that sound like he's actually saying it rather than reading it.
And they were the ones who were brilliant
and I loved fairy tales,
that mixture of scary and...
incredible castles and things turning into something else.
Quite a lot of people turning into frogs and all sorts of other things,
and talking dogs and snakes and all that sort of stuff, loved all that.
"I'll do the brushing!" said Arabel, eagerly.
"I'd like to do it!"
"Supposing its shoes need changing," said Mr Jones.
Oh, I would have loved to have done Jackanory.
-I'm the producer of Jackanory.
I want you to come on and I want you to tell a little story for us.
What would it be?
Well, it it's the one that I can't quite remember what happens,
but it's the one where he goes down, I think there's a soldier
and he goes down and then there are three doors,
and he opens the first one and it's a dog with eyes like saucers.
-And then the next...
-So, slightly spooky?
Yeah, and then the next one, he goes down
and it's the dog with eyes like plates,
and then the third one is the dog with eyes like dinner plates.
Can't remember any of the rest of it, but it was really spooky
and I seem to remember there were deaths.
-That would be your choice, would it?
I quite liked the rather gruesome ones!
I quite liked the Princess and the Pea as well.
Yeah, why? What in that appeals to you?
Because I always feel that I...
I always used to think that I was that Princess
and I'd be able to feel the pea.
-I want to take you back to that first decade, so...
Tell us what your living room was like, your telly, your first telly experience...
Well, the house... The house was a bit boxy,
but there was a lot of garden and trees that I used to hang around in,
-and there was an apple tree where...
-So, very rural?
The apple tree, I used to be able to hang upside down and put the book on the floor,
and then just swing gently whilst reading my book.
Until eventually my knees gave out and I'd just collapse off,
and then spend the rest of the time under the apple tree reading the book.
The house itself, we had a hatch, which was very exciting...
-..between the kitchen and the dining room.
-That was very plush.
A serving hatch.
-And then the sitting room was... It had a big...
-Where was your telly?
The telly...Dad put the telly so far up the wall that you...
cos he didn't really want us sitting in front of the television.
He thought we should be going doing things,
like either helping him mend the car or bicycles or whatever else,
so the television was really... We all watched the television like that,
although actually when we were really little, like that,
and you could only poke it on with a stick.
-It was that high up?
-Well, when you're little it was.
-Of course, yeah, yeah.
So we're there like that watching the telly. BRIAN LAUGHS
And, yeah, that was where the television was.
So, it wasn't really a particularly comfortable experience, really.
It was much better when there were loads of you on the sofa
-because you were bolstered by other people.
And so it was a bit more comfy somehow.
So, let's move on to your next choice.
Something that terrified you, terrified me, The Singing...
And it was, I genuinely was very, very scared of this.
-I don't know if it was because I couldn't follow it in any way.
When I look back... At the time,
I probably didn't even know the word "surreal" when we were watching it,
but it was quite surreal.
People... All sorts of things happening.
I had no idea what... I had no idea...
-at any stage.
-This is plot, yeah, yeah.
-Yeah. No idea.
At that age, I just thought I didn't get it,
-but looking at it again, I realise that it was...
The Singing Ringing Tree was an East German children's drama serial
made in the style of the Brothers Grimm
and dubbed into English.
It's a story of the prince who was turned into a bear
as he attempts to deliver The Singing Ringing Tree to his princess.
-He's turned into a bear.
-He's been...made into a bear.
Look at him, poor thing.
Look at that. How awful to go out one day and be a prince
and then the next moment, you're a really bad-looking bear with a very funny face...
-I know! I think they were sacked, they sacked the make-up department!
..and a tree! What on earth...what on earth was going on?! PENNY LAUGHS
What scared you so much about this? I know what you're going to say.
It's the troll that lives under the bridge.
-And there he is.
Yeah, he was scary.
I think we all look back and laugh and go, "Really?" but...
Yeah, but he was, he was a really scary... What's he going to do?
I mean, do you still find it scary?
No, but why did we find it so scary?
-It was awful, though.
-I think it's cos I couldn't follow it.
PENNY LAUGHS I don't think so!
See, I seem to remember it being everybody who came into contact.
As soon as you went onto the bridge, maybe that was the point, it was that bridge, wasn't it?
So, the bridge loomed large and it was about approaching it,
-and you just knew that something...
-I'm pleased you've cleared that up.
-..horrible was going to happen.
So, the bridge and... And in my head it was a troll
and, of course, loving fairy stories so much,
-it didn't really matter that things didn't make sense.
It was just about a general feeling, wasn't it?
I mean, you look at that and you go, "Oh, bless 'em." Look at it.
-Why do you threaten me?
It's not my fault the tree didn't sing.
You should have known the princess is bad-tempered and arrogant.
And don't forget, you know,
-we were a much more innocent bunch then, weren't we?
It was a much more innocent era
and those sort of things were clever.
-And most of the...
-Yeah, yeah, you're right.
Anything transformation or where you became something else
-was always incredible.
You look back at things like Doctor Who, for example,
and the Daleks, you know, not even remotely scary.
-Then, hugely scary.
-Oh, terrifying, yeah.
With a show like this, did you enjoy it scaring you?
-I think I probably did.
It was one of the highlights of my week.
I really looked forward to The Singing Ringing Tree -
-it was an absolute treat.
-Really? A moment of escapism..
-It was a huge treat.
-..that opened a window on the world.
It meant you could sit down for a minute and do something else, and just sit there and enjoy.
I'm moving on to your next choice now,
-something that possibly showed off your artistic flair...
-..or something you were interested in.
-Oh. I loved...
-This is of course Vision On.
-Yeah, I loved Vision On.
-I loved Vision On.
It was the most brilliant, brilliant programme.
You loved Vision On or you loved Tony Hart?
-I... Yeah, indistinguishable.
-Tony Hart was Vision On.
-Tony Hart was Vision On
and Morph and all those other sort of things,
and making things and the way he painted,
and all those other sort of things.
And then, of course, there was the Painting Wall.
With its mix of art, mime, sketches and animation,
Vision On was designed mainly but not exclusively for deaf children.
Tony Hart joined Pat Keysell for the second series
and his artwork caught the imagination of the young audience,
inspiring them to send their own work in to The Gallery.
Now, The Gallery.
Hold on a second.
How old's the person who did that painting?
Six? I don't think so.
That's about right, age-wise.
Oh, now that is good.
Now, kids will be going, "Yeah, move on, move on," whereas I'm actually glued.
I'm still glued. Look at that.
I could look at these forever.
There's a bit of glue on that one.
So, what sort of stuff did the young Penny Smith make?
-Were you into all that?
-I liked that sort of thing.
Vision On and Blue Peter, I was the person who desperately craved sticky back plastic,
but we didn't really have that sort of thing,
so I'd have to make do with masking tape
and drawing on the top of masking tape and everything else.
But I did cross stitch and sewed and I made things.
I was always busy making something.
-So, did you ever have ambitions to send something in to Tony Hart?
Never did, though.
You were quite annoyed with some of those pictures, weren't you?
Well, I thought some of those pictures...
-I thought that they looked like they had had help from adults.
And I am quite fair-minded
and I don't think you should get help.
If it says how old you are then it should be all your own work,
and some of those...
There's no way that some of those six and eight-year-olds had done those paintings. No way.
But, there's no doubt about who made Vision On's artwork.
The show's quirky logo was designed by Tony himself,
who also created the iconic Blue Peter ship.
When Vision On came to an end in 1976,
Tony went on to host Take Hart.
And, in 1984, the show was refreshed once again
with new graphics as Hartbeat.
At its peak, it received up to 8,000 drawings every week
from budding young artists.
Penny, what we've got now for you is,
I can honestly say, hand on heart,
some children's pictures of famous celebrities.
None of them had any help.
They are from Glazebury C of E Primary School
and they did them especially for us.
This one is from William, aged ten.
Who do you think that is?
-William, marvellous. I'm liking the teeth.
-They're particularly good.
-But you have no idea what it is?
No, and it is quite scary. There is quite a scary stare going on.
I'm sort of slightly confused about the hat business going on.
So, it's a little boy,
but it's really a little lady.
A little... A little boy who's really a little lady.
-Oh! Jim... Jimmy Krankie.
You see, I don't really...
-I wouldn't really know what you mean.
-I bet you'll get this one.
-Oh, Dame Edna.
-We've got Lila.
-That is brilliant!
-She's nine years old.
Here's your next one. This is Thomas, aged ten.
He's done this one here.
-Right, is that Bette Midler?
-Ah... Oh, that's quite a...
-It's a TV star.
-Quite famous for...
-Is it Judy Finnigan?
-Well, lovely, smiley, smiley face.
-Shall I give you an impression of her? Go on, then.
-CILLA BLACK VOICE:
Is it? Oh, bless!
I wouldn't have said that Cilla's nose was quite
-that sort of...
-Well, she's probably had some work done...there.
Here's the next one. This one's from Will, aged eight years old.
Oh, look at that. Is that...?
I like the tie, I think there's a lot of effort gone into that.
-We've got his glasses on.
-Really? Is that Trevor McDonald?
-You are absolutely on the money. Congratulations.
-Look at that.
He's very smiley there. Look at him.
-I know, I know, well, he's retired in that photo.
-Yes, is he. He's having a lovely time.
-And finally, this one here is Finlay, who's aged 12.
Now, the blue and the lanes behind give it a clue. Is it Tom Daley?
No. I think that's a bit of a red herring. That is just the backdrop.
-That is just the backdrop?
-Let's say he's sitting at a desk.
Sitting...at a desk.
-White T-shirt on there.
-A white T-shirt, is that normal attire?
-Quite high trousers.
-Is it Simon Cowell?
-Do you know what?
I quite like that smirk that's going on there.
That's not bad at all.
-Did you enjoy that?
-Oh, they were lovely. I think there was...
Children done well, that's Glazebury C of E Primary School.
Thank you very much.
And well done to you. I can confirm that you got 4/5.
Yeah, so you only got one wrong.
-Yeah, well done.
-Yeah, yeah, well...
-Oh, well, you had some help there, didn't you?
-Oh, the original!
Look at him
And there she is, Demelza.
-Ooh, yes, look.
-Very manly, the way he said that.
-Yes, very manly.
-Look, she's got her...
-Oh, she's wiped her hands!
And do you know what I like? I like an apron.
He's very much up your street?
Do you know what? Still...yeah.
-You can't stay here.
-I don't understand, are you sending me away?
-Yes, it's better.
-But why? What have I done?
"But why? What have I done? My goodness..."
Why must I go?
Is it cos of last night? I didn't mean anything...
-Oh, look and he's got a bow in his hair.
-Oh, I like a man with a ribbon.
Oh, there's something about a man in a ribbon. BRIAN LAUGHS
I'm to be sent away like I've done something wrong, like I stole something?
-I'm doing this for you. Don't you see?
So, this is obviously the original Poldark we're looking at.
Oh, the original Poldark, yes, that was good.
But that's yours? I mean, we've only recently just seen this on TV, but for you...
Yeah, no, I watched the one recently. Far too slow. People doing slow-mo and all that sort of stuff
-and actually, Poldark himself, not beefy enough for me.
A bit too lean, a bit too...
No, you need a proper bloke,
who looks like he could actually carry you
across the marshes for quite some
considerable period of time without needing a horse.
I so wanted to go and live in Cornwall, stride around clifftops...
-..wearing that kind of outfit, like Demelza there, Angharad Rees.
-Had you read the books?
-No. No, no, no.
-No, no, no. Funnily enough, it wasn't the sort of...
No, I can't remember what books I was reading by then.
I went through a very, very pompous phase,
-where I read only very, very...
Most of them probably I didn't...
Most of them, probably, I just read without taking in a word
but no, I didn't read the Poldark books.
I was too busy watching them
and that was just such a pleasure.
Look at her great hair.
-What is it about the Poldark story that you enjoy so much?
Well, again, I can't really remember what on earth went on - no idea -
-except that there were love stories.
There was love stories, there was intrigue.
It had everything I loved.
So, it sounds to me as if you wanted to be one of these characters.
-Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
-Swept off your feet...
Yeah, if anybody... Of course, if a bloke ever had tried to carry me anywhere,
I'd have said, "Put me down immediately. Stop it. Stop it now."
-"On your bike."
Your next choice is a series you enjoyed watching
but didn't let too many people know about this.
-Do you know what I'm on about?
Now, it might seem odd that I didn't want to tell people that
-I liked this show...
..but at school, I was seriously poor at science.
And so if I'd have confessed to loving this programme,
they'd have said, "Well, how come you're not better at school?"
-There we go.
-Let's take a look.
The tunnel that's now proposed enters France 160f feet
below the inviting beach of Sangatte to the...
Horizon launched over 50 years ago with the mission to bring
the world's greatest scientists and philosophers to our screens.
How could such a tunnel be built in a given time for a given cost?
-We hope so.
Ah, they're talking about the Channel Tunnel.
-Look at this, the Euro Tunnel.
-This is when it was just a thought...
-Yeah, look at that.
..and let's get you on the beach in your suits.
And then, look, we'll just dig a hole here
and then we'll keep on tunnelling.
It was here that the prototype tunnelling machine
of Colonel Frederick Beaumont was assembled underground...
Oh, look at this, big machinery.
..and began to advance into the chalk.
-Are you still gripped by it now?
Says it all.
PENNY: And then, I think, there was lots more of that boring machine
and it was huge.
And it's just... There's something about huge whopping
great bits of machinery.
My dad, as I mentioned, an engineer and he'd got this company
and got these whopping great bits of machinery, and the smell of oil
and Swarfega and hot metal,
and men with goggles on...
Sweat dripping from their bodies.
Hmm, yeah. Muscly. Yeah, dirty.
Dirty with just those small vests.
Yeah, with their hair tied back in a ribbon. Oh, hold on!
Straying into Poldark.
No, there is something about huge bits of machinery. I love...
-That you find interesting.
-I do, I can't help it.
I love all that sort of thing and all these moving parts
-and teeth and cogs and, oh!
Oh, screws and left-hand facing things.
Would you watch Horizon, you know, every week?
-Erm, not necessarily every week.
I think I was a bit older by that time, so I probably had
quite a lot of homework and various other things that I was doing.
But I loved going with Dad
and Dad, in fact, liked taking me around.
Before he had...
He had a big company making pylons and derricks
and various other things, huge great structures.
Before he did that, he used to take me around...
When he was a salesman, I used to go
and look at great big tractors and massive great bits of machinery.
And I was always there, just looking at them
and imagining what they were getting up to.
But there's something about that...
The creative element of it.
I think with creative it comes back to Vision On and Blue Peter
and making things.
Making things that worked and making things that did things.
It's all about being constructive, isn't it?
-I like things that have a purpose.
And you can't think of anything with much more purpose, for example,
than that huge great boring machine.
One of the very good things about Horizon,
they explained very complicated things in a simple form.
You know, visually...
This is something that you have to do, you know, in your job.
In the job, yes, I suppose you do.
Well, you have to talk as though nobody knows what you're talking about.
I mean, that's the whole point about news,
you're explaining something,
or you're getting somebody else to explain,
and having to ask the questions.
And I think that's another reason why I love being a journalist
because you're actually saying, constantly,
"I don't understand, tell me.
"I don't understand how this works, explain."
-And I love that.
Penny Smith, can I take you back to your first broadcasting experience?
I want you to have a little look at a picture of you now at Thames News.
-There you are.
-Yeah, look at me having a lovely time
with Andrew Gardner, who was such a gentleman,
such a lovely, lovely man.
And I did love working at Thames News.
I used to go out in the morning and I used to do a story,
and then I had to come home, throw the editing notes into the editor
and then go and do the afternoon news at 3.30, and then I'd go and finish
off the item that I was doing,
and then co-host the six o'clock with Andrew.
And it was the most blissful, blissful job.
It was a really good time.
I did that for, I think it was a year I was at Thames News.
Did you come from radio to television?
-No, I went from newspapers first...
A journalist on a newspaper first of all, the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, and then I went
accidently backpacking for two and a half years
-and worked in Radio Hong Kong in the middle...
..to get a bit more money to carry on.
And when I came home it was Radio Trent and then Border Television,
and then Thames News and then Sky and GMTV.
The lovely thing about Thames was
that it was a lot more newsy then Border.
Border Television, you had to...
We all got in earlier and earlier because there was only, generally,
one big real news story of the day. The rest of them were features,
and I loved doing features,
but it was always quite nice to do a newsy piece.
So at Thames News, of course,
we were talking about pretty meaty issues every day, which was good,
and it was also a much bigger news organisation.
What do you watch now on TV?
Erm, I suppose, it tends to be...
-I like comedy shows.
Erm, so, for example, Toast
and anything with Julia Davis in.
Perhaps more left of field ones,
Inside No 9, I enjoyed the first series of Inside No 9.
I've got the second series of Inside No 9 to watch,
those sort of programmes.
I love a good drama series,
Cranford, for example.
If I'm going through and I can't find anything,
there's usually something on BBC Four, there's usually
a series about something that I didn't even know I was interested in...
-..that I'll suddenly go, "Oh, look at that."
Like, do you remember that one with the bloke
swinging around on the outside of buildings, where he was
looking at how buildings were made from way back when to now?
He went down The Lloyd's Building, inside and out,
looking at how they were made, how it all fitted together and those things.
-Engineering again, you see?
-And Guy Martin.
When he did that series about huge great machinery,
I loved that series.
And when he was doing the thing about being fast, I loved all those.
And, of course, I'm a news junkie, goes without saying.
News... News looms large.
-I watch it, I read it, I listen to it.
It's just one of those things.
It will be with me forever because, of course,
I loved watching the news when I was a kid, as well.
Penny, thank you so much for being on. I hope you've enjoyed it.
-God bless you and we'd like to thank you.
At this point, we'd like you to choose a theme tune.
Out of all the shows that we've seen today, I think
the one that I love the most still...
And the music will stay with me, Vision On.
Fair enough. My thanks to Penny
and my thanks to you for watching The TV That Made Me.
Here's a bit of Vision On.
MUSIC: Vision On Theme Tune by Claude Vasori
Comedy legend Brian Conley takes newsreader Penny Smith on a journey through the classic TV that helped to shape her into one of our favourite early morning presenters and asks some questions about her telly-watching habits.
Why did she look forward to East German children's programme The Singing Ringing Tree even though it scared her, and why did she hide her love of the long-running, much-respected documentary series Horizon from her friends at school? And what was it about the immensely popular Vision On children's art show that irritated her?