Brian Conley journeys through the world of television. Kirsty Wark talks about the people who inspired her, including the late, great Robin Day.
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The magic box of delights.
As kids, it showed us a million different worlds,
all from our living room.
That was state of the art! Arrgh!
I loved this.
Each day I'm going to journey through the wonderful
world of telly... Cheers. ..with one of our favourite celebrities...
We're going into space. It's just so silly.
..as they select the iconic TV moments...
Oh, my God, this is the scene. Oh, dear.
..that tell us the stories of their lives.
I absolutely adored this.
Some will make you laugh...
Don't watch the telly, Esther, watch me!
..some will surprise...
No way, where did you find this?
..many will inspire...
It used to transport us to places that we could only dream about.
..and others will move us.
I am emotional now.
Today we look even more deeply.
Why wouldn't you want to watch this?
So come watch with us,
as we rewind to the classic telly that helped shape those
wide-eyed youngsters into the much-loved stars they are today.
Welcome to The TV That Made Me.
My guest today is one of Britain's best-loved journalists
and broadcasters. It can only be the one and only Kirsty Wark.
Kirsty started off in radio before switching to our TV
screens in the '80s,
anchoring countless current affairs shows
and ground-breaking programmes such as The Late Show and Newsnight.
The TV that made Kirsty includes a drama series that showed
young women could be independent.
Soon every mother will be unmarried.
And an iconic interview with the Iron Lady.
You were seen as a hectoring lady in London who has not achieved
any popularity in Scotland at all.
Today the expert interviewer becomes the guest.
So, I want you to relax. How do you feel about being interviewed?
Actually, I think it can be quite fun. I'm looking forward to it.
Well, today is a celebration of TV.
TV that shaped you, probably made you the person you are today.
Some classic moments that you haven't seen for many years.
But first up we are going to rewind the clock
and have a look at a very young Kirsty Wark.
Kirsty Wark was raised in the Ayrshire town of Kilmarnock.
The family consisted of dad Jimmy, a lawyer,
mum Roberta, a teacher, along with Alan, Kirsty's younger brother.
After attending university in both Stirling
and Edinburgh, Kirsty joined the BBC in 1976,
starting off in radio,
before gracing our screens in regional news and current affairs.
The nation then woke up to her on the morning show, Breakfast Time.
And over the years she confirmed her place as one of Britain's
most respected political journalists.
So, what was it like looking back?
Um... Idyllic childhood? Yes. It was a lovely childhood.
I grew up in a great, it was a kind of country industrial town,
which, very sadly, doesn't have all the big industry it used to have.
It was a lovely childhood. A childhood with a lot of freedom.
That was the great thing.
You could go out in the country on your bike,
I was away from nine in the morning to five at night.
There'd be no question in the summer holidays of contacting
your parents, you just did that.
So did you have much time to watch TV as a youngster?
I can remember watching, I remember TV being rationed. Rationed?
Those early, early childhood moments were obviously all black and white.
The only time you saw colour was when you went to the pictures.
Well, we're going to have a look at your earliest TV memory now. Great.
Here it is.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E, starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.
On a street in the East 40s, there is an ordinary tailor's shop.
The series focused on McCallum, a Soviet agent, Illya Kuryakin,
and Vaughn as his American counterpart, Napoleon Solo.
The show's witty writing
and fast pace always offered up high-end spy thrills.
These two leading men really were the super sleuths of the '60s.
They both work for U.N.C.L.E.
U.N.C.L.E is an organisation
consisting of agents of all nationalities.
It's involved in maintaining political
and legal order anywhere in the world.
This was extraordinary for me, because all you
heard about as a child was, you know, about Russia being different
and people not being able to come out from behind the Iron Curtain.
And then here was this, kind of,
early detente between an agent from the West and an agent from the East.
In this tense scene, Napoleon Solo is trying to smuggle a medal
engraved with the names of enemy agents.
When Ricardo Montalban's agent, Satine, emerges from the fog, Solo
has to make a nail-biting decision about whether he is friend or foe.
We loved it. We loved the espionage. I loved looking at America.
I loved looking at New York. What age would you have been?
Um, I think I was probably about seven or eight.
So very young, still.
I can remember my father had razor blades, and they came
in a little cream box, and we turned these into pretend transistors.
We used to play The Man From U.N.C.L.E...
Oh, right. ..in the streets and in the park near where I was raised.
Kirsty, can you picture what your old sitting room looked like? I can.
Maybe you're like this. I've got this uncanny ability to see
rooms as they were, so I can remember, um,
we had a kind of rust-coloured carpet
and we had a kind of bluey-green sofa.
And that actually had been my grandparents',
and Mum, I think, had had it covered at least twice.
Mum had also gone to classes for making lampshades in those days.
And so these lampshades would really take you back, wouldn't they? These lampshades would take me back,
and she did all different sizes, all different colours.
And they looked fantastic, I mean, she was incredibly good at it.
Wait one moment, Kirsty, I've done it, I've created this for you.
There it is. Oh, my God, you've got a Dimple bottle.
We've got a Dimple bottle. And you've got a kind of '60s shade.
We've got an awful '60s shade. Yeah, the Dimple bottle is beautiful.
That Dimple bottle... You're a 15-year-old.
My father loved good whisky, but... Do you know what, I think
I might have to steal that from you. Really?
Well, I'll put it on the side. Let's put that there.
There... Ah. Look at that!
Come on, round of applause, please.
And it's got a little adjustable bit, so if you want to move
it around, have a look at something, then you just put it back on.
There you go, that's great. Fantastic.
The next choice is a family favourite that you used to all laugh like drains at.
Ah, Minister. Allow me to present Sir Humphrey Appleby,
permanent undersecretary of state and head of the DAA.
Hello, Sir Humphrey.
Hello and welcome.
This is, of course, Yes Minister.
Stars Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne were magnificent.
Dry, wry and very funny.
Opposition is about asking awkward questions.
And government is about not answering them.
Well, you answered all mine anyway.
I'm glad you thought so, Minister.
They embodied the '80s attitude towards politics.
Poking fun at a world full of doubletalk and jargon.
..known as the permanent secretary.
Willie here is your principal private secretary.
I too have a principal private secretary and he is
the principal private secretary to the permanent secretary.
Directly responsible to me are ten deputy secretaries,
87 undersecretaries and 219 assistant secretaries.
Directly responsible to the principal private secretaries
are plain private secretaries
and the Prime Minister will be appointing two parliamentary
undersecretaries and you'll be
appointing your own parliamentary private secretary.
Can they all type?
None of us can type, Minister. Mrs Mackay types.
She's the secretary.
I absolutely adored this and we did as a family
because it was just so accurate, so funny.
You imagine the civil service being
so superior to the politicians, which I still think they are.
I think they think they are anyway, and they probably are.
And the actual civil service are the ones that are doing the hard graft,
the checking, holding things back, holding everybody to account and the
civil service are the high flyers
and they just watch the politicians come and go.
Yeah, and you think this was the beginning of it all.
I think this was the first real light that was shed on what
actually happens in Westminster.
So you watched this religiously?
Religiously. I loved it.
Really? Look at those performances.
They're just amazing.
Real division-one acting team, wasn't it?
Absolutely. The dialogue was amazing.
I know, and you can watch them now and still laugh your head off.
Yes Minister was the catalyst for many political sitcoms and satires.
But it wasn't the first on our screens.
Only Fools And Horses creator John Sullivan brought
Robert Lindsay's young Marxist Wolfie Smith and his own
peculiar brand of politics to our screens in 1977 with Citizen Smith.
A decade after Wolfie, The New Statesman arrived,
when we were treated to Rik Mayall's
backbencher, Alan Beresford B'Stard.
Then, in 2003, Charles Prentice and
Martin McCabe came to our screens.
A pair of PR gurus played by Stephen Fry
and John Bird in the series Absolute Power.
And, of course, who can forget Doctor Who star
Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker,
keeping everyone on their toes in the multi-award-winning
The Thick Of It.
So, did your parents encourage you to take an interest in the world?
Absolutely to take an interest in the world.
It wasn't just comedy that Kirsty's parents opened her eyes to.
They also encouraged her to take an interest in the news,
and one heartbreaking story from the 1960s really left its mark.
I'm very intrigued with your next clip.
It's a major event. A truly harrowing story
about the Aberfan disaster
reported by Cliff Michelmore.
He's reporting on the disaster here.
Never in my life have I ever seen anything like this.
I hope that I shall never, ever see anything like it again.
It was October 1966 when the colliery spoil tip above the mining
village of Aberfan slid and engulfed a farm, houses, and a school.
116 children and 28 adults died.
Cliff Michelmore was visibly shaken as he reported from the scene.
Only minutes ago, someone came down with a faint hope. They said
that they'd found a child.
And the child was underneath a blackboard
and they thought that the child was alive.
10 minutes before,
they brought out a whole pile of bodies
of 20 children
where the whole of this muck had run straight through
the whole of the classroom
and literally buried them.
Does it still move you?
It does and, you know, these were miners searching for their own
children and Cliff Michelmore was a tremendous reporter there
and he really absolutely kept his - as he should do - kept his head.
Only just, but I mean, that image of a child being lifted
out from under a blackboard and thinking the child was alive...
I mean, as a child at school, of course,
you couldn't imagine what that would be like, to have the whole
classroom engulfed and not only one classroom but several classrooms.
The whole school. Wiped out and parents searching for the kids.
It was unbelievably sad.
And I watched that because that was the first time I'd
seen in the aftermath of this event cameras and reporters
talking about it on television, so it really stuck with me.
I think it carries a responsibility to be...
To be a straight arrow,
if you can, and I think he showed that kind of reporting.
He held it together and was crisp, was clear, didn't over-egg it,
because it's nothing that needed to be over-egged, it was
so horrific, but gave you clear fact about what had actually
happened, and that really, I think, gave me
an appetite to see what was going on in the world.
One of my great heroes was Joan Bakewell
and I can remember her reporting on television.
I can remember Late Night Line-Up, 24 Hours, Tonight.
All of these programmes that I would
watch and they were really enjoyable.
I can remember Late Night Line-Up actually had arts material
on as well and all sorts of...
There was actually someone
sang at the end of the programme.
I can remember that as well, so I mean, I loved all that,
I thought that was a really...
A great way to kind of imbibe television.
This is your Must See TV.
This is my room.
You and Avril may hire the marital couch
when you wish to sample the joys of marriage without its responsibilities.
This is Take Three Girls. That's correct.
And it was a fantastic drama.
I'm one of the 7%. Of what?
Unmarried mothers in Greater London.
Not only was it fantastic,
it was also BBC One's first-ever colour drama, following the lives
of three young women sharing a flat in London.
You're frightfully clever, Kate, but you do confuse one, rather.
Oh, hell, what does anything matter?
He used to call this flat one of my assets.
Others were my eyes, my hair,
his unborn child, he knows, was one of my liabilities.
So you think a show like this what was
going on was very much of its time?
I think it was absolutely of its time.
It was 1969, I was 14.
So, you see, this was incredibly influential for me.
I loved it and I wanted to see it again. I would watch this again.
Well, we'll give you the box set. Give me the box set. Yeah.
If such a thing exists, give me the box set.
It was just at the time of women's liberation
and there was always, for me, the first kind of idea
about women's liberation, three girls sharing a flat together.
All the trials and tribulations of being on your own in the city.
Never missed an episode. I think it was only two series.
24 episodes, there were apparently, yeah.
I just thought it was incredibly entertaining.
Do you think it was quite risque for the day? It was.
I think it was quite risque but then the BBC have done lots of fantastic
stuff, Cathy Come Home... all sorts of stuff.
Kitchen sink dramas.
So, did you think that had an influence on your life?
It was this opening up of sort of the idea that women can do
anything and I think that a lot of the television started to
play to that idea.
Probably, television was actually quite, you know,
ahead of its time in that regard.
So, do you think it empowered you?
Erm, I think it was one of the things that entertained me
and made me think that women could definitely be independent.
Definitely be independent. And you was, you was very independent.
I was independent, yeah.
I was pretty independent, yes, yeah, because I'd gone to school when I was very young,
when I was four and so when I went away to university I was just 17.
So, did you think it would be fun to sort of share a flat with three others?
Yeah, and very quickly I did, I went to university when I was 17
and I was in a flat when I was 18.
What was you studying?
I was studying first English and Scottish Literature
and History Of Art and then I went on to do Scottish Studies
and European Medieval History, Architecture, all sorts of things.
And then I was lucky enough to be selected for the graduate
entry programme, I applied for the graduate entry programme
for the BBC to be a researcher and that's how I came into the BBC.
Now to look at one of your biggest influences. A giant...
Well, a colossus of a broadcaster in his day. Who am I talking about, do you think?
I think you can only be talking about Robin Day.
Yeah, Robin Day, who you worked with. I worked with as a radio producer, yes.
Shall we have a little look, first? Yes. Let's have a look at Robin in action.
Good evening from Number Ten Downing Street.
On Panorama, Robin Day didn't take any nonsense from the then
Prime Minister, James Callaghan.
Why do you shrink from legislating about abuses in those
particular spheres as opposed to a complete act?
Why do you use the word shrink?
Well, I use the word shrink because it occurred to me
as an accurate word to describe your position. I see.
The way that I have tried to fight the battle of inflation doesn't,
with respect, give me the impression that I shrink from a fight
if I believe it's right. Would you mind withdrawing the word shrink?
I will withdraw the word shrink.
May I tell you why I used it?
Because I felt that you may think there is
a case for law in these matters
because you did say in the House you were not against it in principle.
Well, it's a perfectly fair point to put to me.
See, that's great.
You know, "I won't call you a shrink again,
"but I'll tell you why I did call you it."
It's a perfect piece of interviewing.
He was very good on the one-two, where you kind of ask a question,
which either way it's answered is problematic for the politician,
and then he's ready with the next question. Yeah.
I think that he changed the whole style of interviewing.
He was not deferential, but he was rigorous.
And I think partly to do with his lawyer's training.
And he was also very funny, he never took himself that seriously.
And I think his pomposity was not genuine.
I don't think he really was a very pompous person.
He was great fun.
When I worked with him on The World At One as a producer
and I used to sit next to him, I learned so much from him.
Just the way he prepared for interviews,
the way he thought about things.
He did Question Time brilliantly and he was just forensic
and I loved that.
Were politicians scared of him?
I think politicians were scared of him.
He wasn't an establishment figure at all.
He was very funny actually
cos I can remember you'd go in early, early morning
and Robin would come in half an hour later and he would sit waiting
for the morning meeting.
He would sit in this chair the whole time before The World At One
and on one side, he would have a pack of fags.
On the other side,
he would have, not really thick cigars, but, kind of, cheroots.
And from then till you went on-air, and during on-air,
he would just smoke one then the other, one then the other.
And the other thing, he would chew them as well.
Cos he would chew the cigarette forgetting it wasn't a cheroot.
And there was just this kind of fug around him.
But he was a great person to learn from and he was generous.
He was tough, but he was generous with his thoughts and his advice
and I think he was an absolute colossus of broadcasting.
For quite a long time you were producing.
But when was that leap...
When did that leap happen for you to get in front of the camera?
It was in the early '80s and it was a Sunday morning
politics and current affairs programme that I was one of
the two producers on and the head of the department,
quite a hard-bitten news journalist originally, just said,
"Look, you know, we haven't got a woman presenting here.
"You should try it." And that's what happened.
So then I had to make a decision, really, a year later, about what
I was going to do and I decided that as much as I love producing
and love film-making, that I would really like to carry on presenting.
Time to move on to one of your big moments.
A truly iconic interview.
I remember it.
This is back in 1990.
Your own backbenchers are saying that the Community Charge
is "a political cyanide pill" and it will cause
"deep hatred and division."
Now, these are your own backbenchers.
I have never heard the expression you have used before.
Tony Marlow and Hugh Dykes respectively.
I did not hear what was said at the 22 Committee,
but if that is so,
I don't believe that their judgment is correct.
After the European elections last year
when you lost your two remaining Euro seats in Scotland,
one of the losers, James Provan, said that you were seen as a
"hectoring lady in London who has not achieved any popularity
"in Scotland at all."
Do you accept the fact that some Conservatives in Scotland
think you're a liability to votes?
Well, nevertheless, we have in the United Kingdom, as a whole,
won three elections.
So, I don't think that story can be wholly true.
Otherwise, we should never have done that, nor have achieved the
rising reputation which Scotland now has, to my great delight.
But long-term, it's working and to the great benefit of all of us
Yeah, well, that took a lot of preparation.
I worked very hard with Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland's
political editor, the late Ken Cargill who was the producer.
Sorry, would you work on something like that for days?
I worked on it, I thought about it a lot,
I knew it was coming and I worked on it probably for...
a week, really thinking about it.
Because I knew that I only had half an hour
and I knew there was certain things that
I really had to get out in that interview and I had to be direct
and I had to be persistent and rigorous, is what I hope was.
But afterwards, she had a complete go at me in the studio.
Oh, really? Absolutely massive go at me in the studio for interrupting.
Yeah. Oh, for interrupting her? Yeah.
Yes, because when the Conservatives heard that it was going to be
a woman interviewing her, they tried to stop...
the interview. Really?
They got in touch with the BBC in Scotland
and BBC stuck to its guns and said that she was coming to Scotland
and she would not dictate...
Her office would not dictate who would do the interview.
And so, BBC stood behind me...
Stood with me, cos I was the person slated to do
the interview and we did the interview.
But she was not very pleased.
She wasn't comfortable with women interviewing her at all.
What did you think of Margaret Thatcher?
I thought that she was pretty formidable.
And I thought that she...
..had prepared in the wrong way.
What had happened was,
she knew she was seen as unpopular in Scotland and so,
she took a briefing beforehand and she misunderstood the briefing.
I think the briefings were done by Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Forsyth
and they said to her, "You have to be more in tune."
"You've got to seem more in tune", so forth.
But she took that literally
and she kept saying to me during the interview,
"We in Scotland this" and "We in Scotland that"
and apparently offstage, they were just going,
"Oh, my God, this is a disaster."
And I think she felt very uncomfortable.
I think she knew that she wasn't popular.
Well, she obviously knew she wasn't popular in Scotland.
And it was a real difficulty for the Conservative Party then.
And was this a pivotal moment in your career?
I think it probably was, but it seems a very long time ago.
Look at the hair, look at the shoulders!
That was when we used to have to have big shoulders.
Yeah, big shoulders. Big shooders.
That in somehow, if we had big shoulders,
we would be seen as being more authoritative.
Oh, I see, the bigger the shoulders, yeah.
I think it was like your carapace, wasn't it?
Yeah, you're power dressing, aren't you?
So, stepping away from politics,
are you happy to talk about Celebrity MasterChef?
I'd be happier to talk about it if I'd won.
It's this whole thing about, if you're going to do it,
you may as well try the best you can, really in anything.
And so I was really going to try and do the best I can,
but I couldn't believe that I got to the final.
I was just so thrilled, so thrilled.
Are you quite competitive?
I'm probably quite competitive with myself.
I am competitive, quite competitive, yes.
But actually, in that kitchen, you all wanted everybody...
You didn't want anybody to see...
and when you saw other people's disasters, you were really upset.
You didn't want people to have disasters, it was horrible.
You don't want Schadenfreude. You don't want to see other people fail
in that kitchen. Not unless they're really not very nice people and,
by and large, the people on MasterChef are lovely people. Yeah.
And you've been on a few other programmes.
A few iconic ones.
It's really weird. Doctor Who.
Well, funnily enough, it's interesting.
I think you could probably be on Newsnight for 100 years,
but if you do one cameo in Doctor Who,
suddenly you get all these people going,
"Oh, my God, I saw you on the telly!"
Really, was it like that?
So, what did you do in Doctor Who?
I actually said, "The end of the world is nigh" on the Newsnight set,
which is a dangerous thing to do of course,
because you must always be very careful about these things.
But it was, "Get out the city, the end of the..." Ah, right.
And I was quite scared of myself, actually.
It scared you? I might have believed me!
That's how good an actress you are.
But I was so thrilled!
I mean, it was just such a, kind of,
joy to be asked.
You know, it was a thrill to be asked.
There isn't a Lego bit of me that's Doctor Who though yet, sadly.
That cameo, 30 seconds? 30 seconds? It's just a matter of time.
It's great fun playing in dramas, just playing yourself.
It's good fun.
I'm just doing it again just now because I've just been in Ab Fab.
Ab Fab film. Yeah, the movie.
Yeah, which doesn't come out till July.
But that was enormous fun cos I have such huge respect
for Jennifer as a writer and for Joanna as well as actresses.
They are consummate professionals, but they're great fun.
So, what TV do you enjoy watching now?
I absolutely loved Homeland.
I am behind with War And Peace, though I will watch it.
I loved The Bridge.
I think that whole Scandi-noir has completely changed
our viewing habits. Shetland's come out of that as well.
These are the kind of things I watch.
I watch documentaries as well.
I wish I had more time, in a way, to...
There always seems to be so much to do when I'm at home.
I'm behind with The Good Wife
and I think Alan Cumming is absolutely fantastic.
I am not a person that's ever watched more than three
episodes of Game Of Thrones.
I obviously watch House Of Cards, it was wonderful.
But I am the most annoying person to watch television with
because what might happen is I might miss an ep
and then the rest of the family are watching,
cos my daughter's at home for a year.
And my husband and she might be watching it
and I'll be going, "Well, I want to watch it with you."
And they'll go, "But you'll have to not talk. You can't talk."
And I'll say, "But what if I'm missing something?"
And then, of course, 30 seconds later, I'm going,
"How did that happen?"
Then they have to press pause
and there's a great long explanation and then we start again.
Have you enjoyed your experience?
Yes. It's been lovely having you on the show.
I thought you were lovely, kept eye contact... Really? ..friendly...
Aw, lovely. ..nice shirt...
Thank you very much. ..smile.
Well, it's been lovely talking to you.
Lovely talking to you too. Thank you.
Now, we always give our guests to pick a theme tune to go out on.
What's it going to be?
My very favourite theme tune is definitely
the theme tune from Arena... Oh, really? ..which is just classic.
And I don't know whoever dreamt it up at the BBC,
but it is one of the most enduring,
iconic and atmospheric theme tunes.
Well, thank you very much for being on the show.
I enjoyed it enormously. It's been lovely to meet you.
Thank you. It really has.
So, my thanks to Kirsty and my thanks to you
for watching The TV That Made Me. We'll see you next time, bye-bye.
Let's get cooking.
# Everybody dance
# Doo-doo-doo... #
# Clap your hands... #
Comedy legend Brian Conley journeys through the fantastic world of television with some of our favourite celebrities who have chosen the TV moments that have shaped their lives.
Broadcaster Kirsty Wark joins Brian on the sofa to talk about the TV that shaped her. We start off by journeying back to the 60s to watch a clip of The Man from U.N.C.L.E, a spy drama that Kirsty used to act out in the park. We discover that Kirsty's passion for journalism was there from a very early age when we revisit a news story that shook the world. Brian surprises Kirsty with a clip of satirical sitcom Yes Minister, before we move on to real-life politics by looking back at, arguably, her most famous interview - with Margaret Thatcher.
Kirsty talks about the people who inspired her, including the late, great Robin Day, one of our most cherished broadcasters. Throughout we find out about the television that made Kirsty the person she is today.