Celebrities choose the TV moments that have shaped their lives. Brian Conley takes Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph back to revisit the TV moments from 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 have chosen the precious TV moments that shed light...
-She has beaten the panel.
Look at that!
..on the stories of their lives.
Go on, Champion, go on, Champion.
Like, oh, ugh, ew.
Some are funny.
Oh, quite amazing. Unbelievable.
No, no, no, Christina.
'Some...' Yes! Yes!
Some are inspiring.
That is what kids should be doing now.
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'm actually... I broke down in 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 one of the loveliest actors I know.
A star of stage and screen,
Lesley Joseph is best known
as one of Britain's most enduring sitcom characters -
the endearing man-eater-next-door, Dorien Green in Birds Of A Feather.
The TV shows that have shaped her range from Dickensian drama...
Don't stand there staring, boy. What's the matter?
Where is Mama, Peggotty?
..to a sassy sitcom...
-Look at that, look at that.
-Oh, I am not doubting your strength, darling.
..and a presidential assassination.
Well, it can only be the one and only,
the beautiful, the hugely talented...
Here she is, ladies and gentlemen.
-What is television in your life?
-Do you know...
Television is quite an important part
because it is my life, to a certain extent.
Lesley was born in North London in 1945.
At the end of the Second World War, the youngest of two,
she grew up in Kingsthorpe in Northampton with her brother Robin,
mum Vicky and dad Jack.
Lesley's passion for performing developed at a young age
and her dad's love of cine film meant that she was already
learning to perform for the camera.
What was it like, being brought up in Northampton?
Well, you have to remember that it was just after the war so we
played with ration books.
I mean, literally.
We did not have any money, really. We used to play in cardboard boxes.
I was a little tomboy. We didn't have anything.
But we used to try to dig to Australia in the garden...
HE CHUCKLES It was...
So I am assuming you didn't have a telly?
Well, we did, because I remember watching the Coronation in 1953.
And we were the only person in the street to have a television.
So it was wonderful, it was the most social thing.
And so about 4:30, people would come home from school
and you would get, knock-knock-knock.
"Can I watch the television, please?" "Yeah, course you can. Come on in." So any one night,
there would be about 20 kids in my mother's sitting room,
which was tiny, anyway! Little end-of-terrace house,
and we would all be watching the television.
Lesley's love affair with performing began at the age of seven
when she joined the Masked Theatre Company
and she got the star roles from the start.
Her first paid acting job was as an understudy in a review
at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford at the age of 21.
But Lesley's desire to act had a very surprising source.
# Champion The Wonder Horse! #
Let's see if you have got it in the right key. Here we go, Champion The Wonder Horse.
# Champion The Wonder Horse!
# Champion The Wonder Horse!
# Like a streak of lightning flashing across the sky... #
# Like the swiftest arrow whizzing from a bow
# Like a mighty cannonball, they seem to fly
# I hear about it everywhere you go... #
Let me go!
This high drama children's Western series was renowned
for its suspenseful soundtracks and action-packed storylines.
The use of music through scenes like these was the key to keeping us
on the edge of our seats.
12-year-old Ricky North, played by Barry Curtis,
was the human star, but the acting gong goes to Champion,
whose dramatic timing was surely Oscar-worthy.
You let me go!
I will, soon as I get to ride that stallion.
The Wonder Horse used to rescue them out of all terrible situations.
Look at it, the horse comes galloping in.
Get the saddle off that pinto.
Champ, you had better do what they tell you.
It's a bit like Tonto And The Lone Ranger, do you remember them?
It sort of reminds me of the same thing.
It's drama and the horse is the goodie
and the horse went to the rescue.
-Look at that acting, look at that acting!
And that is a real horse.
Maybe this is what made me want to become an actor,
because I wanted to be rescued by Champion!
Watching Champion The Wonder Horse made you into the actress you are today.
I wanted to be an actress since the age of four.
So I will have been watching all of this
when I was on my path to becoming an actress.
-So, you obviously like your serious drama.
-But you've got some comedy heroes as well.
I'm going to take you back now to 1979.
TERRY AND JUNE THEME TUNE
Ah! Terry And June.
Ah... See, June Whitfield, one of my comedy heroines.
What is it about June that just makes you love her so much?
She's such a great comedic actress.
She IS a great comedic actress, but also you've got to love her
because she's still here. She's still relevant. She's still working.
Ab Fab, she was right there and she's still brilliantly funny.
I think sometimes now we take for granted the sort of people
that have the work record that she does.
I TOLD you I was too heavy!
Light! Light as a feather!
Well, now you've carried me over the threshold,
could you put me down, please?
-Yeah. Well, if I lean here, could you get yourself down?
We've got a whole weekend of work ahead of us
-and you're exhausted already.
-I feel terrific, never...never felt better.
She's a true star, in the old-fashioned sense of the word
and she's a grafter. A real pro.
Because it was always Terry that took the limelight,
but it takes two to tango.
Yeah, it does.
June's illustrious career has spanned seven decades
and an array of fantastic roles, starting in the 1950s with
various shows including the immensely popular Tony Hancock Show.
A decade later, June took centre stage in her first starring role
in Beggar My Neighbour.
In the 1970s, Happy Ever After cemented a television marriage
between June and Terry Scott that would last 13 years
and span two different series as they went on to the popular
sitcom Terry And June in 1979.
The '90s brought us June as the hilariously unfazed
mother of Jennifer Saunders
in Absolutely Fabulous
and most recently in 2014,
she starred in the BBC comedy Boomers.
The word "national treasure" I think is used very lightly now
and it shouldn't be.
I think if you're looking at a TRUE national treasure,
that's June Whitfield and she's kept in with what's happening now
and that's wonderful because she knows how the business works.
But YOU know how the business works.
-I hope so.
-Because you've sustained it.
I mean, what you're saying about June could very much be you.
I think with myself, I realised that I had a certain ability to do comedy
and that sort of took over, and musical theatre - I do half musicals.
I LOVE theatre.
I also love television and I think to give yourself longevity,
you have to be prepared to do everything.
Well, I would like to give you a challenge, now.
Because I have in my pouf here
a couple of scripts of some classic...
Actually famously announced that these were the funniest jokes
And if you could deliver them to me...
..in a very, very dramatic way.
Can we have a bit of music for this? Hold on.
That's good music. We like that. OK.
Go for it - cue Lesley.
Two peanuts were walking down the street...
..and one was assaulted.
My dog's got no nose.
How does he smell?
My wife's gone to the West Indies.
Say it again, I missed that one!
-My wife's gone to the West Indies.
-No, she went of her own accord.
-That wasn't... Let's do that better.
All right. My husband's gone to the West Indies.
No, that doesn't work, does it, it's her!
My wife's gone to the West Indies!
-She went of her own accord.
-Oh, my God!
You know, this could be the end of my career.
I know, shall we put them away while we're winning? Um...
Lesley Joseph, TV brought acting into your life,
but it also brought real-life drama.
I'm going to take you to November 22, 1963.
Latest news and pictures from America, over to the newsroom.
The death of John F Kennedy happened in Dallas at 25 past 12.
In our time, 25 past 6 this evening.
35 minutes later, President Kennedy was dead.
Half an hour later still, the United States had a new president -
the newly sworn-in Vice President Lyndon Johnson.
The diary of disaster began with a barely-credible agency message
that President Kennedy had been shot.
-I find that quite difficult to watch, even now.
extraordinary. I was at a piano lesson.
I was with my piano teacher, called Miss Herveway
and, I think I had just about... Either just left school
or still at school
and I was in her house and we were in the little front room
and I don't know how she knew, maybe she had watched it on the television.
-And she came in and she said President Kennedy has been shot.
And of course, the piano lesson ended there and then.
-But, yeah, I always remember that.
-Does it all come flooding back to you?
-Does it feel really immediate?
-I can feel...
I can see myself back in the room, taking the piano lesson.
I can see her going out of the room,
I can see her coming in and I remember...
-Because then I was towards my late teens, so things like that...
You take it all on board. It is not like you are a young child any more.
You realise the implications of what has just happened.
And that was a huge day,
and I suppose huge that that was then repeated on the BBC news.
When you look at it now, and again you hear the voice,
this amazingly wonderful, beautiful voice,
you know, saying such devastating news...
And, um, I can see myself back then.
And now, I still find, watching it, quite an emotional response to it.
When word of the assassination first reached the UK,
the BBC News team was completely unprepared.
All of the key news broadcasters such as Richard Baker,
BBC's first-ever TV newsreader,
Robert Dougall and Kenneth Kendall
were all attending a black-tie event in London.
Even the BBC's chief Washington
correspondent, Douglas Stuart,
was - would you believe - stuck down a coal mine in Illinois.
And so the job of announcing one of the biggest events in history
rested on the shoulders of John Roberts,
a junior member of the news team
who had never presented a news bulletin in his life.
At 7:26pm, after John's announcement that
John F Kennedy had died, the BBC were thrown into a panic.
The channel ran a rotating globe for 19 minutes, interrupting this
with updates from John Roberts while they decided what to do.
Normal programming eventually resumed and the following evening,
the BBC unveiled their brand-new sci-fi drama, Doctor Who,
in the hope that it might be a welcome distraction.
He was this wonderful, good-looking,
charismatic leader that everybody thought was going to bring
fresh hope to the world and, you know,
try and put an end to war and, um...
Then when you see that and you realise that they had
something that was bulletproof but they'd not had it up on that day...
And why was it not on that day?
You know, history would have been changed.
Have a little look.
-Come on, Peggotty.
-Don't be impatient!
Here, take hold of this.
Why isn't Mama out to greet me?
-You gave out a little sigh then, Lesley.
-You see, I'm crying now!
Hold my hand, darling - why? Why?
Why are you upset?
I'm not upset, because this takes me back...
I don't know when this was made, but this is going back to stuff
I used to watch - David Copperfield I used to love...
-Dickens I used to love...
Your mother has something to tell you, David.
What is it?
David, Mr Murdstone and I have got married.
He's your new father!
-I don't want him for my father!
So where do we go, there?
Why are you so moved by that?
I think because I'm looking back on my childhood
and my father was alive then - he died about 19 years ago.
He used to take cine films of us all
and, you know, it's all enmeshed in your childhood,
watching stuff like this.
The family was all still living together
and it's all very evocative of what your life
was like then as a child
and with television coming in when I was reasonably young,
how the sort of television you would watch
would come at various times in your life.
Charles Dickens' eighth novel David Copperfield has been adapted into
a television series nine times
since it was first published in 1850.
The first adaptation in 1956 starred a young Robert Hardy in the role of
David, who went on to play Siegfried Farnon,
the eccentric animal doctor in All Creatures Great And Small.
The David Copperfield TV adaptation
which appeared on our screens in 1999
starred Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe as a young David,
along with a wealth of other TV talent including
Dame Maggie Smith and Lesley's Birds Of A Feather bosom buddy,
Pauline Quirke, as David's Nanny, Peggotty.
Davey! Oh, Davey, Davey - my own darling, darling Davey!
I love it. You see, I think
television has always had a great reputation for doing Dickens,
for doing the dramas, David Copperfield, this was my sort of...
Not my... I suppose my youth.
I'm not sure what year this was made, but this was a drama
and maybe in my head one day I thought I might be in that.
I must have seriously wanted to be a serious actress.
I'm sitting here getting emotional, watching David Copperfield!
Can I press pause?!
We've gone from the President's assassination,
which I thought you took quite well...
To David Copperfield, and I'm in bits!
-That boy wants manners.
Control yourself, Clara.
What sort of things do you watch, I mean, with your mum?
I don't know if we reminded everyone that your mum is
actually 102 - isn't that amazing?
She's 102 now, yes, she is.
-Does she watch a bit of telly?
-My mum was always too busy doing things.
My mother never, ever sat down.
She never did, she used to be the most amazing baker.
If it was your birthday, she'd suddenly do this amazing doll
in a crinoline, all made out of edible things -
I always remember that. Or she'd do the most wonderful castle or
a little thatched cottage with roses round the door.
She was always making.
She made amazing chicken soup with lokshen,
she did amazing roast chicken, she was always baking,
so she wasn't somebody that could ever sit down and say, "Right,
"what are we going to watch?"
I don't remember ever watching anything with her.
You know, my brother and I would sit and watch, but she was a doer,
she used to make all our clothes because just after the war,
you didn't have anything.
So it was practically... Nice curtains?
Right, let's take those down - there's your dress, Lesley.
She had a sewing machine, so she was always doing.
She never really sat and watched,
so I don't remember watching anything with her.
Now, you like your telly short and sweet. I'll tell you what I mean.
That was a little clue. This is it.
This telly advert,
was part of a £6 million global campaign in 2010
inviting viewers to associate a sense of James Bond-esque decadence
with a commercial airline.
-I mean, the production values...
-Phenomenal, isn't it?
# Feeling good... #
-This is a lovely visual, watch.
-Oh, it's amazing.
Here we go - are you ready?
# Drifting on by, you know how I feel
# It's a new dawn, it's a new day... #
There's something wrong with that!
It's very Dorien!
It's just an incredible advert.
The sassy soundtrack and slick and sexy choreography
entice us to fly into a glamorous,
aspirational world, but the ad neatly brings us back to earth
with the ability to laugh at the indulgence of it all.
-Is that Linda?
-No, she's in Miami.
-Ah, of course she is.
What's interesting about commercials is they're either comedy
and you remember them for the comedy, sometimes they're
so amazingly, brilliantly produced
you remember the commercial
but you don't know what it's advertising.
So that works for me because the red and the Virgin
and the whole thing, it's all very enmeshed together, so there's
no way you get to the end of that
and think, "What was that selling, a car?"
What about a good comedy ad?
I think if an ad's clever, it doesn't matter if it's comedic,
beautiful to look at - look at the Guinness adverts.
They're amazingly well produced, they're all about a minute long and
you get that wonderful shot at the end with the froth on the Guinness.
The Hovis adverts with the little boy trundling up the cobbled stones.
It doesn't matter - one isn't better than another,
it's how you choose to sell that product.
I remember when I came out of drama school we had to fill in things
and it said, "Would you do a commercial?" Absolutely not!
No! I went into the business to be a serious actress,
I'm a serious actress!
I started off doing Chekhov and Shakespeare and I still do,
but the comedy world took over.
Birds Of A Feather.
Something that you're very famous for.
# What'll I do
# When you
# Are far away
# And I am blue?
# What'll I do? #
This is me.
Goodnight then, Dorien.
Oh, Roger, you have something on your lip.
-Really, what is it?
Until tomorrow night then, darling.
Listen, if the night gets long and...
Do you think all great comediennes,
great comedians, are desperate to be taken seriously?
I think the grass always looks greener.
I think sometimes I could look at those who do wonderful, serious
work and think, "Oh, my goodness,
"I would love to do Shakespeare in the West End," or "I've never
"worked at the National, I'd love to work at the National."
On the other hand, if you said to me,
"You can go on the road with Annie,"
I would say just to dance Easy Street, I will take that,
because dancing Easy Street brings me alive.
But you can dance.
That's how talented you are.
# I was sad and blue
# But you made me feel
# Yeah, you made me feel
# All shiny and new... #
Go on, Lesley!
# Like a virgin!
# Touched for the very first time! #
I've still got that dress. It's got a matching handbag.
Why would you keep that dress and matching handbag?
-Because it's iconic!
-I see, OK!
-It's ICONIC, Brian!
-So it's not something you'd wear out?
-I've worn it since.
We filmed this at the Hammersmith Palais in front of about 400 extras
on the very first day of filming.
This was the most requested in a whole year of Points Of View.
It was the most requested clip and it's the one whenever anybody
talks about Birds, it was such a good episode.
I have to say, you are very brave.
I thought I was being brilliant, Brian, you don't understand -
I thought I was singing it brilliantly.
There's a bit that comes afterwards when the legs go apart, as well.
-His or yours?
And I loved it, it was such fun.
Birds Of A Feather, the comedy romp
which played out the misadventures of two sisters and their saucepot
neighbour, was a ratings smash around for nine series from 1989.
The series returned in 2014
and its opening episode attracted 9.5 million viewers -
ITV's highest-rating comedy in over a decade.
I was very aware when Birds started
that Dorien was very much the third character,
so had she not been liked or had it not worked, they could have
moved or she would have moved, but I think you needed that third
character to come in, as Pauline always used to call me,
a wooden spoon.
She'd come in and stir the mix and set sister against sister
and they'd be against her or she'd be against Pauline
and it was always the three. And then gradually
she became sort of indispensable.
Oh, I think after you watch this scene,
it's obviously clear that you are indispensable.
-Please call me George.
Is your...friend OK?
I think she's a bit overcome.
She's been carrying a bit of a torch for you
ever since she was a young girl.
Well, no wonder she's exhausted!
Oh, that was funny.
I couldn't remember that. "No wonder she's exhausted!"
Of course, we went to LA.
When we did Birds, we went to LA, Berlin, Majorca
and we used to say whenever we had a Christmas special, "Please,
"where can you send us this year?"
Look how much hair I've got there!
You've come all the way from England to see me,
the least I can do for you is to invite you back to my mansion
for a little, um, champagne by the pool and some sunbathing, huh?
-What do you say?
I never kid where sunbathing is concerned.
What are we waiting for?!
What about your friend? We can't just leave her here.
Don't worry. We'll tell the bellboy
to leave her with the rest of your old baggage till we get back.
It worked incredibly well because it was always the chemistry
between Pauline, Linda and I that made it work.
Let's bring it right up to date.
Well, we have, with Birds Of A Feather.
What sort of stuff do you watch?
We've already said that you don't have that much time, but...
Is there stuff?
I can't tell you how many box sets I've got that I've never even opened.
I think, "I must watch this," and "everybody's watching that,"
and "I've got to watch that," and I buy the box set and it sits there.
Mainly because I'm not sure how to work the DVD player, but...
I know that when I watched The West Wing many moons ago,
I watched eight a day.
Yeah. Once I started watching it, it always had a cliffhanger at the end,
so I had to keep watching it and I think I'm frightened of getting
into something that I know is going to take the next six months
of my life, I'm going to be like this in front of this goggle box.
So I know I will get to watch everything that's in my box sets,
but just not yet. I sometimes catch up on my soaps.
EastEnders are fantastic
because the strong matriarchal women are fantastic in soaps.
So EastEnders is something you watch, anything else out there?
I watch Emmerdale, Corrie.
On this show, you get a chance to pick a theme tune,
a theme tune for us to go out on. So what's it going to be?
-Can I pick a theme tune from one of my clips?
-Of course you can.
Then I'm going to have David Copperfield.
-You're not going to cry, are you?
Ladies and gentlemen, we bid farewell to the lovely,
dear Lesley Joseph.
This is David Copperfield playing us out.
SHE SNIFFLES Oh, look!
DAVID COPPERFIELD THEME PLAYS
HE SOBS, SHE LAUGHS
I thought he was a magician!
Legendary entertainer Brian Conley takes Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph back to revisit the TV moments from the past that helped make her one of our best-loved comic actors.
What was it about shows as diverse as the high drama of Champion the Wonder Horse, the costumes and classic writing of David Copperfield and the perfect comedy timing of June Whitfield that gave Lesley the inspiration to pursue a life on the stage and on our screens?