Celebrities choose the TV moments that have shaped their lives. Dame Esther Rantzen talks about the birth of consumer television and why TV is such a powerful tool in our lives.
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TV - the magic box of delights.
As kids, it showed us a million different worlds
all from our living room.
-This takes me right back.
-That is so embarrassing!
I am genuinely shocked.
Each day, I am going to journey through
the wonderful world of telly with one of our favourite celebrities.
It is just so silly.
Ah! Love it!
Is it Mr Benn?
As they select the iconic TV moments...
..that tell us the stories of their lives.
Oh, my gosh.
Some will make you laugh...
HE PRETENDS TO WEEP
..some will surprise...
SHE SCREAMS AND LAUGHS
..many will inspire...
Look at this. Why wouldn't you want to watch this?
..and others will move us.
Seeing that there made a huge impact on me.
Got a handkerchief?
So come watch with us, as we rewind
to the classic telly that shaped
those wide-eyed youngsters into the much-loved stars they are today.
Welcome to The TV That Made Me.
My guest today is an amazing lady who has dedicated most of
her life to righting wrongs.
It is Dame Esther Rantzen!
-Do I get a peck?
She is a consumer champion, founder of ChildLine
and one of the greatest broadcasters to ever grace the British Isles.
The TV that made Dame Esther includes
a drama that rocked the nation and crashed the BBC switchboard...
the queen of "walkies!" and "siiiit"...
..and of course, we will be looking at
everyone's favourite consumer show.
-Please, come and sit down. Welcome to my flat.
-Do you like it?
-It's nice, isn't it?
Is there anything here that you may have had at home?
Not one single thing.
So, Esther, are you a fan of nostalgia?
Yes, yes, yes, I love looking back and seeing old programmes
and hearing old music, makes me feel young again, I love it.
-What was your home like growing up?
-OK, I grew up...
I was born in Berkhamsted during the war,
about the same time as Dunkirk.
And we lived in a typical little semidetached house,
with a privet hedge, and my dad used to wash
the car on a Sunday morning and it was all very respectable.
Today is a celebration, a celebration of television
that you have watched and loved and picked for us today.
We are going to rewind the clock
and look at a young Esther Rantzen.
-Or should I say Dame...Esther Rantzen.
-Well, say it once, cos it's a great honour...
-Oh, it is.
..but don't frighten me with it all the way through.
-OK, so I can call you Esther?
Otherwise I will have to be very proper.
Well, cop a look at this, this is Esther.
Esther Rantzen was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
in 1940 to parents Katherine and Harry.
After a spell living in New York whilst her father
worked for the UN, the family headed back to the UK,
where Esther attended Oxford University.
After a stint as a BBC Radio assistant,
she moved into television as a reporter for Braden's Week.
In 1973, Esther became a true household name,
as she presented the magazine show That's Life,
which attracted up to 18 million viewers each week.
She set up ChildLine in October 1986, and last year alone,
ChildLine dealt with over 300,000 young people reaching out for help.
Esther's incredible achievements were recognised in 2015
when she was made a dame.
-Was it a nice trip down memory lane?
-It certainly was.
I tell you what I always think about that.
-If I had known that it was going to be all right...
..how happy I would have been then.
You get so worried when you're a kid, and you think things aren't
going to work out, but actually, here you are at 75,
and I have been very lucky.
So was TV a big part of your life growing up?
Actually it was, because my late father was something
-quite senior in the BBC - sorry about showing off.
But he was one of the television pioneers,
so we actually had a television in 1946.
But nothing to watch.
-I remember Andy Pandy.
-I remember Muffin The Mule.
I remember the little dot disappearing in the centre
of the screen.
So you talk about the dot, do you remember the interlude?
The interlude was...
It was actually, in some ways, better than the programme.
The Potter's Wheel interlude was introduced in February 1953,
with a variety of these short films intended to cover
the many intervals in programming.
In those days, between programmes, you had this lovely soothing moment
where you could just relax,
chat to whoever you were sitting with, and there would be
a potter doing something artistic
and not at all rude with bits of clay.
And it just put you in a good mood.
Well, to put you in a good mood now, I would like to do my own...
-interlude for you.
-Shall I go over there?
-This might be terribly rude.
-No! You are a dame.
You're going to make a lot of mess, aren't you?
You are preparing yourself for this.
I am doing this for you, Esther. Away we go.
I have never, ever used a potter's wheel in my life.
The interlude ranged in length
and showed everything from spinning wheels to seascapes.
Oh, isn't this lovely?
This film shows the hands of Georges Aubertin
as he throws a pot accompanied by music.
-The music was so important.
-Don't watch the telly, Esther, watch me.
-I'm sorry, sorry.
-I am working like a dog here.
'Viewers who stayed alert might have noticed that Aubertin
'never finished the pot, just kept remodelling it.'
I'm getting a bit wobbly, a bit wobbly.
Oh, oh, oh, got a wobbly bit, wobbly bit.
He's making his flatter.
'Well, ladies and gentlemen, that is not how I roll.'
I can't believe I have actually done that. That is absolutely fantastic.
Very, very impressive.
As pleased as I am with my pottery, I doubt I would ever have
made it as a presenter on any of the classic craft shows.
Blue Peter led the way in 1958,
and I certainly remember wanting to be awarded a badge.
I still live in hope, although maybe not for my pot.
Tony Hart with Morph and the gallery slot which we all loved
dominated a decade of telly crafting between 1984 and 1993.
Morph maintained his fame with another kids' craft show when
he joined Kirsten O'Brien and co
on SMart, which ran for 16 series.
At the more grown-up end of the scale,
we have the queen of the handmade home, Kirstie Allsopp,
encouraging us to use our imagination,
something Esther's father would often do.
Your father, he was very much into his technology, wasn't he?
My father was one of the cleverest people I have ever met.
He was an electrical engineer, he worked for the BBC,
he worked for Lord Reith...
-and he was one of the pioneers in television.
He also invented a spoutless teapot.
No! How do you get water out of a spoutless teapot?
Well, it was actually a jug.
But he thought the spout always got dirtier,
so that's why he thought it would be useful.
-So your dad invented a jug?
-He invented a jug.
But why I am so grateful to him was that he had two daughters,
and this was at a time when, for a lot of girls and women,
the ambition was get married, have children, settle down,
good housewife, cook, dust - all those things.
My parents wanted both of us to go to university and have careers.
-And this was, you know, born in the 1940s,
-so this was fairly unusual.
So I am very grateful to both my parents for their aspirations.
So you have spoken about your dad, what about your mum?
..in deep disguise. She was so naughty...
You would see this dear, little, old lady in her later life,
with white curls and glasses, very respectable,
and when she came on any of my shows,
sometimes she would come on my talk show,
she would always get a round of applause for being so wicked.
Really? Like a wicked sense of humour?
Wicked sense of humour, always saying the unpredictable.
What sort of things would she do?
-Does anything spring to mind?
-I remember Russell Harty...
..thought that she was a dear, little, old lady,
he was interviewing people's mothers.
And he said to her, lovingly,
"So, Mrs Rantzen, do you do a lot of baby-sitting for Esther?
"Would you babysit for me?"
And she said, "Russell, you couldn't afford me."
It was good, it was good. But the television, in spite of the fact
we had a very early television,
my respectable parents thought it killed
the art of conversation, so it was never allowed in the sitting room.
-It had to be out in the hall.
-In the hall?!
So we would put a couple of chairs in the hall,
and there was a boy who used to deliver the evening paper
who spent hours looking through the letterbox.
We were a slightly eccentric family, looking back.
-Let's move on now to your Must-See TV.
-Have a little look at this.
Starring the multi-talented actress
and model Lucille Ball,
American television sitcom
I Love Lucy ran for six series,
from 1951 to 1957.
180 episodes of TV gold.
Tell me, Mrs Ricardo, have you ever considered acting?
-ETHEL AND RICKY:
-Has she ever considered acting?!
The calla lilies are in bloom again, really they are.
A running theme throughout was Lucy's desire
to be more than a housewife.
This always caused great hilarity with her band leader husband Ricky,
as well as with other supportive friends and family members.
I'm getting in the mood for my Italian picture debut.
-Arrivederci, mi amore.
-She was a legend.
-She was a legend.
Didn't she start as a rather glamorous Ziegfeld Folly type
beauty queen and she...?
-It is quite unusual for gorgeous woman, or it was, to be funny.
But she did slapstick, she had that wonderful timing,
and of course that fantastic face.
So where was you when you were watching I Love Lucy?
-I was on Long Island.
My father had been seconded from the BBC to the United Nations,
so we lived there for two years.
And maybe that is why I remember her so much, because of course,
she was an American heroine.
-Yeah. So did you enjoy your time there?
And loved Americans, loved their openness and their warmth.
I remember being astonished by the size of the portions.
When you ate with a friend or ate in a restaurant,
you had this steak that was flopping over the side of the plate.
Unknown in Britain.
Yes, I have never forgotten my time in the States. Always loved it.
-Did you still have your TV in the hall?
-It was in the lounge?
It had... Yeah, I think maybe the Queen made it respectable, didn't she?
-With the Coronation.
-And everybody having a television set.
-I always was sophisticated.
But I think... I love slapstick. I love it.
-I mean, I love all forms of humour when it's brilliantly done.
-Well, funny is funny, isn't it?
-Funny is funny.
We all love a laugh and TV's given us some
sensational slapstick over the years, especially here in the UK.
Way back in 1946, the diminutive 5'4 comic Norman Wisdom
first took to the stage with his Charlie Chaplin-esque routine.
Then in 1955, Benny Hill's domination of
slapstick-style TV comedy began.
Norman and Benny were followed by many other great comedians.
Who could forget John Cleese in Fawlty Towers, which gave us
12 episodes of Basil, Sybil and Manuel between 1975 and 1979?
Then there's Barry and Paul, whose ChuckleVision
brought us tears of laughter for over two decades.
But arguably, the king of slapstick was Welshman,
Thomas Frederick Cooper,
Who made his first foray into showbusiness in 1947.
I was once at a... I think it was it was Water Rats or Variety Club lunch
and he was the after-lunch speaker.
Oh, I would have... It would've been my dream come true to have gone to that.
So what was it like?
He stood up and he read the menu and strong men wept.
Isn't that amazing?! Isn't that amazing?
-I don't know how he did that. I just don't know how he did it.
-A man that could read the menu and get big laughs.
-And he could.
-All the way through.
And I think it was because we knew the world was
conspiring against him, particularly inanimate objects.
Anything around him, you know, a cup, a saucer, a teapot, you knew he
was absolutely sure it was going to attack him, any minute, any minute.
And he convinced us! We knew he was living the most precarious life.
Now, we've seen the shows that you love,
but what about the one that your dad enjoyed?
-The band, the animals, the clowns, all the glitter
and excitement was too much for Mr Pastry.
He decided to join the circus.
-Mr Pastry! ESTHER LAUGHS
"Is this the way in?" said Mr Pastry. "Oh! Good.
Mr Pastry was a clumsy and accident-prone character created by
Richard Hearne, which he took to the stage
in the '40s and later onto television.
This is worse than trying to cross Oxford Street in the rush-hour.
Richard Hearne was actually in talks to become the fourth
Doctor Who back in 1974.
But it could have been his suggestion of playing the Doctor as Mr Pastry
that saw the role given to Tom Baker.
-IN FRENCH ACCENT:
-"See, this is a plate and an egg.
"I throw the egg up in the air and catch it on the plate."
"Oh, very good," said Mr Pastry.
"What, me? Yes?
But even that didn't damp Mr Pastry's enthusiasm.
He was still determined to get a job with the circus.
The thing is, I think
the other thing about great comedy is its simplicity.
I mean, if you look at Richard Hearne and the egg,
it took some timing, but it's quite a simple idea,
-for an egg to fall on your head.
-Must have been happening as long as there's been human beings on earth.
But now, when I listen to comedy, quite often, the comic will
depend on shock of a swear word in the tag and you think to yourself,
you know, actually, the great comics can make you laugh without that.
Yeah. So did your father prefer comedy to everything else?
He seemed to. I always remember one particular night,
-it was actually the night that Kennedy was assassinated...
..and ironically, all the BBC bosses were at some glitzy hotel,
because it was the BAFTA - or the forerunner of BAFTAs -
and they were all getting awards and congratulating each other.
So nobody was there to say, stop your normal programmes, we've got
to have a moment when we reflect this terrible event, this tragedy.
Radio did it much better, they went to Any Questions.
Television put on Harry Worth.
-Oh, my word!
-Do you remember the opening of his show,
-when he was...
-I know, in the shop window.
-..with the shop window?
To stand in a shop window and do that daft thing.
-But didn't we all do it?
-Of course we did.
Have you ever wandered past a shop window and done the Harry Worth "who-ho-ho!"
-Yeah, I think we all have.
-What a thing to have, you know, in your career.
You were the programme that the BBC bosses should not have put out
-the night Kennedy died.
-It wasn't his fault, was it?
It was absolutely not his fault and I think there was only one man
in the whole world that was sitting - in our hall,
I have to say - watching Harry Worth and roaring with laughter.
And I was going around the house, listening to the radio,
talking to my mum, saying this can't be true,
and every time I went through the hall, there was my father
-killing himself and watching Harry Worth!
-Yes, he adored Harry Worth. He loved comedy.
-So, from TV that gave you a giggle...
..to one that gave you a lump in your throat.
-I hope you're ready for this.
This was, of course, Cathy Come Home.
Let's take him away without making any fuss, huh?
What right have you got to take my kids from me?
Well, you can't find a place for them, can you?
We can't have them sleeping out.
Will you help Mummy pack up?
In 1966, the BBC first broadcast Ken Loach's gritty television drama,
which dealt with a young family's descent into homelessness.
It was watched by an audience of 12 million,
a quarter of the British population at the time.
And afterwards, the BBC switchboard crashed, because so many viewers
called in to ask what they could do to help.
We had a bite to eat from the cafeteria.
Of course, the kiddies didn't know what was going to happen.
But I knew they'd catch up with us.
-You're not having them!
BABIES SCREAM AND CRY
-Harrowing, isn't it?
BABIES SCREAM AND CRY
'66, Cathy Come Home.
-But it still touches you, I can see your eyes...
-Oh, yes. Yes, yes.
Do you think Ken Loach realised what he was making there?
-Certainly, it looks like a documentary.
Ken is a wonderful director.
It was with pioneers like that that actually made you see that
people sometimes have circumstances which they are powerless
to protect their own children against.
That programme really changed things.
It shocked the nation and they wanted to do something about it.
-Got a handkerchief?
-We have got some, do you want one?
OK, I will keep one by me. Are you going to do that to me again?
-All right, Stick it there, in case.
-Television's a fantastic medium for doing good.
And that's what I've used all my professional life, to try
and enable ordinary people to tell their story in such a powerful way.
-If you give the British public good information,
they will come forward and help.
That's how ChildLine was launched, that's how the Silver Line was launched,
just because people recognised that this was
a way of reaching out to people that no-one else knew about.
-ChildLine has now helped more than 4 million children.
-That is amazing.
But that is generations of staff and volunteers,
who have given their time and their commitment and their skill
and enabled us to answer all those kids.
As I say, with the Silver Line, do you know, our busiest day
the year for the Silver Line was New Year's Day.
Just remind people what Silver Line is.
-OK, it's a free, confidential help line for older people.
And it's really to alleviate isolation, when people aren't
talking to anybody, because they're living alone, they may be disabled.
And it's really bad for us to be entirely on our own.
So you can talk to someone who's just there
because they want to listen.
Share memories, enjoy a conversation.
It's time to move on now to your TV fear.
A pioneering BBC series that gave us Brits an uncensored look
into the medical profession.
But first, Esther...
-..we're going to need these. I'll pop out to the kitchen.
-He's left me all alone!
-Which colour do you want?
-Oh! I'll have the blue, please.
Do you remember...
what you used to do?
Now, shall I explain what you're doing?
-Yes, it's all yours, Esther.
-Never looked lovelier.
Picture the scene.
-I think it was Your Life In Their Hands?
-Which took you into the operating theatre, OK?
And I can't stand it.
I'm totally squeamish, I can't watch anything like that.
But my sister and my mother were addicted to it.
So I was coming downstairs, remember the television in the hall?
-Still in the hall?
-Still in the hall.
They're sitting on chairs, they were watching television like that.
And I came down and saw these two lunatics with duffel coats
on back to front, the hoods over their faces,
and I said to them, "You could always switch the thing off!"
And they said, "No, we don't want to miss anything!"
Do you want to keep the duffle coat? Are you up for this?
-Shall we have a little look?
-I'd like to keep it by me, just in case.
-As a comfort blanket, OK?
-OK, here we go.
Originally presented by Dr Charles Fletcher, this ground-breaking
medical series first aired in February 1958, giving the
British public an insight into the work of our medical professionals.
In this case, the show follows a liver operation.
I said before in this series that it's not light entertainment.
ESTHER LAUGHS It's blood and gore!
We know that a few people have been upset by the films we've shown before.
I can tell you who they are!
In fact, some people have actually fainted.
So, don't look in for the next few minutes...
Turn down the vision on your set or look away and I'll tell you
when the film is over so that you can look in again.
-The incision is being made...
Oh, is it...
I am dissecting amongst the deeper tissues...
medical series was gory but compelling viewing.
The programme understandably divided and doctors and viewers alike.
No doubt it was way ahead of its time.
..about an inch of the length, you can see the liver, which
instead of being smooth, is very lumpy.
-Thank God it's in black and white!
-Oh, he's digging around! Look!
Can you imagine having someone poking around in your tummy?
-I have to tell you, there are people fainting in the audience.
And that's the end of the operation,
so those of you who've turned down your vision can now turn it up.
It is odd, isn't it?
And actually, it's much more explicit, isn't it,
-that most programmes on nowadays?
I think if it came back, I would have to have a duffle coat handy.
As a nation, we have always been fascinated with medical television.
It's been over 15 years since
Professor Robert Winston's ground-breaking medical
documentary series gave us an insight into the human body
at every stage from birth to death.
More recently, Michael Mosley and his team investigate everything
from aspirin to exercise, in the series Trust Me, I'm A Doctor.
Street Doctor had a slightly different remit.
Four GPs pounded the pavement of Britain to diagnose,
advise and treat members of the general public
and if specialist medical insight was more your thing,
the dissected series with Dr George McGavin literally took apart
our hands and feet to show us exactly how they work.
So, Esther, now we're moving on to your next choice.
Here's a lady who was not afraid of taking the lead.
Hello, little doggy! Now, as we know, she's got... HAD a bad leg,
it's not a bad leg now, is it? But we mustn't let her sit, Nicola.
-It's a him, is it?
Barbara Woodhouse became a household name in the '80s
and a ten-part series training dogs the Woodhouse way
coined a couple of catchphrases we still use today.
If you're going to jerk him, the hand comes on... Show me how.
Like that... And jerk! No, much harder than that. And let go.
Do you remember, it comes right up here? Righto. Good boy.
You see, these days, somebody would give her a stylist
and they'd do something about her hair.
-And they'd do something about that kilt.
There's nothing wrong with a bit of tartan.
-I think I'm wearing the same as her in this...
-I think you may be.
-I think you certainly are.
Tap your hand and really encourage him! Let's go, shall we?
Come on, Skipper, walkies! Jerk him back now.
No, that's across you, try and jerk
back if he's ahead. That's right. That'll stop him.
As iconic as Barbara was, these days,
dog training techniques have evolved.
-Now, you did it wrong. You did it over his face.
Wait! Just by your hip.
"Stupid girl, come on!"
Spit! I want to feel something.
So, what was it about Barbara that you liked?
I mean, she IS magnetic, isn't she? You're just drawn to her.
-She's expert, she knows what she's talking about.
-"Jerk it a bit harder! Jerk it across!" I mean, oh, gosh!
-I mean, the RSPCA, everybody...
-..would be up in arms.
What she proves is that bossy older women make television magic.
Somebody needs to tell the bosses at broadcasting.
-Because... I mean, Fanny Cradock!
-Yes, she was another legend.
Mary Berry is much gentler.
I don't think she'd ever ask anyone to "spi-T", would she?
-LAUGHTER It's brilliant.
I mean, the show was just a huge phenomenon, really, in its time.
Well, it was. Well, who would want to miss that?
Old dogs, new tricks.
Well, we Brits have always had a soft spot
for pensioners on our tellies.
And in the late '60s and the early '70s,
we first saw two series which have stood the test of time.
Dad's Army came to our screens in 1968,
with the wonderful Last Of The Summer Wine
following five years later.
More recently, there have been a couple of ageing Victors
who have been victorious when it comes to having us in stitches -
the cantankerous old grouch Victor Meldrew in One Foot In The Grave,
and the doubly cantankerous pair of old pals
Jack and Victor in the award-winning comedy series Still Game.
And although Dennis Waterman and chums
probably aren't the kind of old dogs
that Barbara Woodhouse could have trained,
since 2003, comedy drama New Tricks
has certainly provided plenty of bite
and howls of laughter.
Your next choice is your biggest influence,
and here is a clip of you working alongside him.
And who was it?
Bernard Braden. Wonderful Canadian actor
who became the inventor of consumer television.
-This is where it all started, really?
That was really our office.
This is 1968.
I was 28.
Canadian Bernard Braden first worked in the UK
in the late '40s, but it was almost 20 years later
that Braden's Week hit our screens
and championed the brand-new format -
Thank you very much and good evening.
Bernie was just a genius, really, when it came to broadcasting.
He was creative. He sort of invented the genre.
And the theory was that this is what happened in the office.
That the researcher would come back with a story
and explain to the producer what had happened.
And so we were re-enacting, if you like,
in the studio, what had happened in the office.
Esther Rantzen has a story for us now. Esther?
Well, it's not so much a story, more a monologue.
One day a phone rang in the office, and a lovely voice said,
"Here, there was a loud bang in my kitchen,
"and it was my fridge.
"So I rang Electrolux in London and they said,
"'Oh, we can't do anything before February 4th.'
-"Well, I exploded."
-Just like the fridge.
Well, we did call Electrolux,
and they said a mechanic would visit Ms Carlin on Friday.
What made Electrolux change their mind?
She made a lot of fuss and a lot of noise.
So we said, "So that's the way to do it."
APPLAUSE Oh, well done.
Now, that was a monologue.
No autocue. HE LAUGHS
So that's John Pitman sitting next to me.
We're still very close friends.
Behind the desk we used to grab each other's knees
to reassure each other. Cos we were nervous, terribly nervous.
We were both obviously in the pilot of Braden's Week,
but we both thought proper presenters would be put in the role.
And consumer programmes, as I say, Bernie invented them.
And then he went to Canada, to do that show in Canada,
using obviously a Canadian team, and left behind in England...
We still were getting letters from people with consumer complaints.
-So that's how That's Life! came about.
That's Life! hit our screens in 1973,
with Esther being the only presenter to appear in every episode.
Regularly gaining audiences of up to 18 million,
it really was the ultimate British consumer entertainment programme
for over 20 years.
Was that recorded live?
That was recorded live, which sounds funny,
but what it means is we had a live audience,
we didn't edit,
-but in case we said something that was libellous...
..the lawyers could come in and say, "You've got to bleep that.
"Otherwise it'll cost the BBC millions."
Well, we've got a little moment from That's Life!
-And Esther Rantzen.
Outside the village of Terrington St Clement, there's a road...
Bless her. Who is she?
According to the map, the road hasn't got a name,
but six months ago, somebody put up a sign
which said Grange Road.
Now, that was news to Mr and Mrs Dix who live at number 30.
They always thought it was called Garner's Lane,
named after a family called Garner.
But across the road, there lives a man who's been there 25 years.
He says it isn't called Garner's Lane either -
it's called Marsh Road.
BRIAN LAUGHS It goes on, doesn't it?
So then I tried the post office.
The post office decided the official address for all the people
who live in Garner's Lane, Marsh Road,
Whitehouse Road, Markham Road,
Worth Road or Smallholdings Road
is Grange Road,
Terrington St Clements, King's Lynn, Norfolk.
That is the official address.
So there shouldn't be any problem from now on.
Except that Grange Road isn't in Norfolk.
It's in Lincolnshire.
I mean, how much work goes into something like that?
It's really interesting looking at that,
because I think that must have been the first series of That's Life!
You're right. That was actually the first episode.
Was it the first episode?
1973, that was.
We learnt quite a lot after that,
like not let an item go on for three hours.
But of course, quite a lot of research went in.
I went round Lincolnshire
and whatever that road was called.
I do remember doing that.
But what then happened was
that the man who was the producer
and who actually wrote that from my research -
John Lloyd, his name was - he died aged 36.
He died of pancreatic cancer.
Lovely, lovely Welshman.
And somebody had to write the show.
And I've never forgotten sitting there
with all the research people had done,
and I had to turn all that research into a script,
cos there was a slot waiting for us on Sunday night.
-And I was there until two in the morning.
And that's when I started to write That's Life!
And I learnt to make the items a bit shorter, I think.
But I mean, that aside,
That's Life! was absolutely just an incredible show.
You know, it really was.
It was ground-breaking, innovative,
informative, it was just...
And funny. I mean, for me, it's when you got arrested.
I'm sorry. HE LAUGHS
Well, there were a series of challenges that day.
We were handing out bat stew.
We were testing to see what it would taste like.
-It's made of bat, what you've just eaten.
-Oh, you dirty monkey.
Constable A Herbert suddenly emerged,
and he said, "You can't do that there, cos it's obstruction. You're going to have to move along."
-You're blocking the pavement.
-But we've filmed here every week
-for the last eight years.
-I don't care
whether you've filmed here for the last ten years.
If you don't move, I shall arrest you.
I said, "Very well, officer," and I moved along
to the opposite corner, where there was nobody.
But the thing is, if you're handing out bat stew
and there's nobody to eat it, it's not quite so good.
-It's not going to work.
-So I came back to the original corner.
And Constable A Herbert,
had been hiding in a doorway,
and he shimmered out, and he said,
"That's it, my girl, you're nicked."
You're arrested there. Sorry.
I've just been arrested for handing out bat stew.
Come on, please.
Now, I had not been arrested before,
and I wasn't quite sure of the etiquette. And I said,
"If anyone thinks I'm not guilty, would you mind speaking up for me?"
And the whole crowd shouted, as one, "Guilty!"
-It was the bat!
-Did you miss That's Life!?
-Well, what do I miss?
There are lots of things about it I miss.
I miss the fantastic rapport with the viewers.
So we would say,
"Funny-shaped vegetables these days,"
and by the next post, we would be inundated
with parsnips and carrots of the most disgraceful nature.
And people always blamed me, and I blame the viewers.
And I miss our wonderful dog that said sausages.
-Who is still remembered.
I saw a commercial the other day for beans
and a dog was looking lovingly in the frying pan
and said, "Sausages."
-Tell us what you have on a Thursday, Prince.
-What does George give you, Prince?
I miss having that fantastic
capacity to change things, you know?
A consultant anaesthetist met me at some do
and told me the story of a toddler
who'd been standing up in the back of a car,
Mum had been driving at 5mph in a traffic jam, stopped.
The toddler had fallen forward,
fractured her skull on the handbrake.
And the anaesthetist said to me,
"You wouldn't put fine china loose on the back seat.
"Why would you leave your children
"where they can be hurt and killed?"
We put that story on the show.
The next morning, the Minister for Transport, Peter Bottomley,
was in our office. I remember he was carrying his red box.
-And he said, "How can I help your campaign?"
And I said, "We've got no film showing what happens
"to children in the back of a car.
"Could the road laboratory, road research laboratory, do one?"
So they did.
They put models of children in the back of the car.
The car stopped.
The children went straight through the windscreen.
And we showed that eight or nine times.
As we got more stories from the viewers, we showed it again.
And a private member's bill was put through,
and now it's illegal
to leave your children without seat belts on.
So that's what I miss. I miss the capacity to take a single story,
one brave person comes forward,
sometimes someone who's experienced terrible tragedy, loss of a child.
Where you've got a caring nation like Britain,
and all they need is to be given the information,
"This is what's going wrong.
"We think this might be the answer."
And they come forward in droves.
And television is a way to hold out your hand
and know that someone's going to take it.
You know, that's why I love this medium.
Because, you know, the theatre is exciting, isn't it?
You do a lot of wonderful theatre.
Film, you sit there mesmerised.
But television makes you care.
Makes you care about reality.
People talk about reality television - I love it.
So what was it like to have all your hard work recognised,
you know, and become a Dame?
What I have to say is, it was a huge honour,
but it was for services to children and older people.
And it was really to recognise the fantastic work done by ChildLine
and the fantastic work, in two short years -
only been going two years - done by the Silver Line.
So I say thank you to them,
because without the achievements of those two charities,
I wouldn't have been given this honour.
I'm not giving it back.
And it is quite funny, because wherever I go,
people say to me,
"How nice to meet you, Dame Edna."
-So I've got myself a gladioli thing...
..and a pair of stunning glasses,
cos I don't want to disappoint people.
Esther, what do you enjoy watching now,
at the moment?
I love Gogglebox.
-Cos here we sit on the sofa -
in fact, we're being Gogglebox, aren't we?
seeing all the artifice,
seeing the bits of insincerity, if it's a politician.
Seeing through all that,
but also caring.
You watch them being moved,
-you watch them roaring with laughter.
I adore Gogglebox.
I'm addicted to the news. I watch the news all the time.
-And anything about antiques,
which is why I love your decor so much.
Anything about antiques, I love those.
For two reasons. One is, I'm fascinated by learning more.
And the other is,
those programmes are an infallible cure for insomnia.
So I will start watching the show,
and I'll really want to know how much that was worth
and what it made at auction,
and I'll wake up, you know, about 20 minutes later, thinking...
"How could I fall asleep just at the wrong moment?"
It's been a real honour to have you sitting on my sofa.
It really has.
You're an inspiration to a whole nation. You really are...
what is the right word?
Could tell you what Rantzen means in German.
-Go on, what does Rantzen mean in German, then?
Maybe that's what you were looking for in that moment.
I was thinking of illuminating and charming.
-You get a choice now of the theme tune.
Any theme tune for us to play out on.
-Is there anything that springs to mind?
-Well, thank you for that.
I would like the theme tune to a programme called Man Alive,
which was written by Tony Hatch, very famous composer.
-Who wrote Neighbours?
-Very clever composer.
He wrote this signature tune, and my late husband,
Desmond Wilcox, created Man Alive.
And he always told me that when you hear the...
He did those.
So it's a memory of Dessie.
-All right, well...
-And I'd love to hear it again.
We've had some great memories today. Thank you for making them.
Esther Rantzen, Dame Esther Rantzen,
-thank you very much indeed.
APPLAUSE Been a wonderful honour.
My thanks to Esther and my thanks to you
for watching The TV That Made Me.
We'll see you next time. Bye-bye.
MUSIC: Man Alive Theme by Tony Hatch
Consumer champion and campaigner Dame Esther Rantzen joins Brian Conley on the sofa.
Brian takes to the potter's wheel to recreate a 1950s television interlude and transport Esther back to her childhood. And his pottery isn't bad either. We find out which iconic American sitcom gave Esther belly laughs and why a gritty 1960s drama made a huge impression on her, inspiring her to help those in need.
Esther talks to Brian about the birth of consumer television and why the little box in the corner is such a powerful tool in our lives.