Celebrities choose the TV moments that have shaped their lives. Mariella Frostrup tells how a children's show featuring a cross-eyed lion made a huge impression on her.
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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's so embarrassing!
I am genuinely shocked.
Each day I'm going to journey through the wonderful world
of telly with one of our favourite celebrities...
It's just so silly.
Ah! I 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...
..some will surprise...
..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 not only a good booking, she likes a good book.
So please welcome the lovely Mariella Frostrup.
Come and sit down.
A journalist and presenter, whose husky tones were once
voted some of the sexiest on TV.
Mariella has fronted programmes like The Culture Show,
as well as becoming a leading book and film critic.
Among the TV that made her, an Irish institution...
The fastest reel in the west, Ciaran MacMathuna just said.
..a music show featuring Mariella herself...
He described them as the Talking Heads for the 1990s.
..and a satirical puppet show where no-one in the public eye was safe.
What am I going to do?
Well, today is a celebration of the TV that made you.
TV highlights that you have chosen.
Stuff that you've probably never seen for many years.
But first we're going to rewind the clock now
and have a look at a very young Mariella.
Mariella was born in Norway in 1962.
At the age of six she moved to Ireland with her family,
growing up in County Wicklow with her siblings.
Her Norwegian father was a journalist for the Irish Times...
..and her Scottish-born mother was an artist.
So why did your parents move to Ireland?
Well, they met...
My mother is Scottish and my father was Norwegian.
And they met in Edinburgh,
because a lot of Norwegians go to university in Edinburgh.
My mum was at art college, and they met there,
and then she followed him back to Norway.
Well, they got married and then she went back to Norway with him.
But neither of them were very happy there,
and they quite liked the sort of Celtic thing,
and so we went on a holiday to Kerry
and they fell in love with Ireland
and my dad got offered a job as the foreign editor of the Irish Times.
And so because of the job,
and because they'd fallen in love with the place, we moved there.
Did you watch much TV as a child?
In Ireland they had two channels,
and that was pretty much what we had to watch.
So, no, television wasn't a huge feature of my childhood,
but there are within that, kind of, golden moments.
Because I suppose... Because we didn't watch very much,
I remember everything we did watch.
So we're going to bring you back to your earliest TV memory now, Mariella.
This is something that involves animals.
Can't mean the doctor's surgery, or maybe more like a vet?
-Oh, my God.
Swahili for "doctor," Daktari was a family drama series
set in a veterinary clinic
and animal sanctuary in Africa.
It was such a sweet programme,
and just made me want to travel to Africa.
It followed the lives of Dr Tracy...
.. and his daughter, Paula, and their unusual pets.
You had Clarence the cross-eyed lion.
He was my favourite.
He was my absolute favourite.
I had a stuffed lion that I called Clarence.
Running for three years, from 1966,
cross-eyed lion Clarence was a regular star.
See that radio up there on the desk?
Now, if you hear a sound out of that radio I want you to give me
a nice big growl into THIS radio.
-That's right, Clarence. Great.
Oh, brilliant acting from Clarence, let's be honest. Very natural.
If there were animal Oscars he'd definitely be a multi-award winner.
Do you really want to act alongside something that could kill you at any moment?
-I've worked with presenters who I thought might kill me at any moment.
OK, Clarence. Here's your bone. Now...
Did you see that?
Did she just give him this giant bone?
-Yeah, it's probably someone's leg.
Do you hear the music - ratcheting up the tension there with the music?
Yeah, you can't beat a bit of xylophone, can you? I mean...
For a suspense.
And it was of course way before they had special effects or anything.
To know that Clarence was cross-eyed
the picture used to just shake like that
when you saw things from Clarence's point of view.
Oh, now we're going to see it, we're going to see it. Look, look, look!
There's the squint, yeah. LAUGHTER
So all they did was just double the image, wasn't it?
Brilliant bit of trickery.
So who would you have watched this with as a young child?
I would have watched it with my brother Aksel and my sister Danielle.
But I don't know that either of them remember it to the same extent.
Maybe I was just at the age where it just impinged on my mind.
Really, all my childhood I dreamt about having my own pet lion.
-But they're hard to come by...
-..particularly in Ireland.
I'll be a sort of old crabby lady
living in the outback of Kenya with my lion.
Ingenious animal stars were all the rage on TV in the 1960s.
Gentle Ben over in the Florida Everglades was a tame black bear
and clever companion to his young owner for two years, from 1967.
Whilst in Australia, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was another canny
furry friend with his own series, starting a year later in 1968.
But perhaps the ultimate in clever pets,
if a bit more conventional, was Lassie.
This resourceful and smart collie dog debuted on TV screens
in 1954 and has been solving crime and rescuing the injured ever since.
So, what, where was the telly situated?
-Oh, I lived in 11 homes over ten years.
So there was no sort of, like, concrete mainstay base where you...?
-There was one house...
-And why did you move so much?
My mother liked moving.
-Any sort of problem...
..would be solved with a move.
Any sort of issue, emotional, financial, always just,
"Let's move on down the road."
And she didn't drive, so if we moved, even if
it was just a mile or two, then we'd change school and everything.
So we moved quite a lot.
There was one house,
the very first house that we...
The only house, actually, that we owned in Ireland
was when we first moved there, when my parents were still together.
And it was in Kilmacanogue, outside of Bray,
and I do remember where the television was there,
cos it was a converted stables and...
I thought of it, really, as our family home, as a child.
And then only recently I realised that we'd only lived there
for about two and a half years.
-But it felt like an eternity, you know?
The living room was just along from my bedroom.
And that was where the TV was,
in case you're wondering where I'm going with this.
But it's also where I managed to watch,
without my parents knowing,
a whole season of Hitchcock films...
-..through the crack in the living room door.
And I used to have to walk about a mile and a half
to get the bus to school,
down this country lane
that was just full of crows.
-Ooh, The Birds!
-And, of course,
I couldn't admit that I'd watched the film
through the crack in the door,
and, for about six months, I don't think I've ever felt fear like it.
I used to set off from the house every morning thinking,
"Don't panic, don't panic.
"They're not going to attack you".
And it was really, really terrifying.
I mean, I traumatised myself.
Did you watch anything else
-through the crack in the door?
Ooh, Psycho! Did you really? SHE LAUGHS
So you never took a shower?
-So there was this...?
-I said we were quite scruffy.
..stinky kid, who used to walk a mile and a half...
Terrified of birds.
-You're getting the picture.
All because of the crack in the door.
Well, your next choice is from your time in Ireland.
This is John Kenneally, ladies and gentlemen, from... Where are you from, John?
The Late, Late Show.
Still running after 54 years on a Friday night,
The Late Late Show continues to be
Ireland's most popular television chat show.
-It was such an institution, this programme.
It really was, you know,
national viewing on a scale that you just don't get any more.
-Everyone in the country who had a television.
If you didn't, you'd go to someone else's house to watch it.
Everyone used to watch it.
From its debut in 1962, it was fronted by presenter Gay Byrne
almost continuously for the next 37 years.
The fastest reel in the West...
-The fastest reel in the West, I see.
Oh, he's going to do a bit of dancing.
He's going to be doing a bit of dancing.
ACCORDION PLAYS Here he... Ooh!
CHEERING, SHE LAUGHS
-Simon Cowell will be after him.
-LAUGHTER ON TELEVISION
LAUGHTER ON TELEVISION
You see, that's why...
When you're brought up in Ireland, you're not really impressed by fame
or any of those things, cos we had men like this.
-Who could do things like that.
APPLAUSE ON TELEVISION Here he goes.
Have you noticed he's not even broken into a bead of sweat?
-Oh, puts his coat back on straight away.
"I'm freezing in here. Let me get my coat on".
An Irish man is only naked when he's got his vest and socks on.
It just reminds me of what a really odd time
the '70s were, particularly there.
But also just how dramatically the world has changed
in what feels like a not particularly long lifespan.
-If you think, that was absolutely...
-..state of the art...
..television viewing. Quality.
That whole thing...
You look at shows now, like Britain's Got Talent
and The X Factor and everything,
and all they are, in a way,
are just repeats of the kind of variety shows that happened before.
And everything is just on a sort of loop.
That's what you realise, I think, as you get older.
Many hosts of long-running chat shows have gone on to become
giants of the broadcasting world.
Sir Terry Wogan was one of the most
popular presenters of British television ever.
His chat show ran for a decade, from 1982,
cementing him as a hugely loved household name.
Ten years earlier,
Russell Harty had already started
his famously unpredictable chat show,
that ran for the next 12 years.
By the late '70s, singer and comedian
Des O'Connor began hosting his own talk show
that played on our screens
for an impressive 25 years.
But one of our greatest chat show hosts,
and nearly catching up with Gay Byrne's 37 years,
it's Michael Parkinson, whose own series ran off and on
for 36 years, from 1971 to 2007.
So, The Late Late Show.
Was this something that the whole family would gather around to watch?
Well, it was on quite late, that's why it's called The Late Late Show.
I was allowed to watch it.
I'm not sure if my brother and sister were. Probably not.
So what else would you watch together?
Not much else. We weren't allowed to watch television during the week.
-We were only allowed to watch it at weekends. I'm not sure there was much on during the week.
-What was that thing called...?
-Was it rationed out, was it?
My parents were very...
you know, against newfangled things,
But they sort of felt we should, you know...
-That too much television would pollute you.
And distract you from more important, you know, erudite things.
And they were very encouraging with reading.
-Things, to be honest, that I'm quite grateful for.
So was your dad a comedy buff?
My dad was an extremely morose Scandinavian.
LAUGHTER Oh, really?
He was all angst and intellectual pursuits.
My mum was much more into,
-you know, funny stuff.
And The Goons
were definitely a feature in our house.
We just loved all of those characters.
Shall we have a little look at Peter Sellers?
-Oh, I love Peter Sellers!
Here we go. Let's have a look.
-It wasn't so much that, it was Clouseau that we loved.
-COD FRENCH ACCENT: When he is Inspector Clouseau.
-The Pink Panther.
COD FRENCH ACCENT: Here it is. The beumb.
My name is Professor Guy Gabroir,
medieval castle authority from Marseille.
do you have a reum?
-Very deadpan, though.
HE MIMICS PETER SELLERS
SHE MIMICS PETER SELLERS
As one of The Goons, Peter Sellers had already demonstrated
his brilliance with creating characters and voices.
But, for many, it's as Inspector Clouseau,
starting in 1963,
that he will, perhaps, be best remembered.
I think the music's funny as well. Just the way it sort of...
-And they're brilliantly directed.
-..slowly plods. Yeah.
And the timing. I mean, his comic timing.
Have you noticed how you know...?
THEY LAUGH You just knew that was coming!
You know just before it happens
-exactly what's going to happen.
That's one of the funniest things about it.
THEY LAUGH That bloomin' car's gone out again.
If he just stood there, he would've got...
Oh, we love Peter Sellers.
I love Peter Sellers.
But...but he's just hilarious.
-I mean, he brought light into our lives.
There was also something kind of surreally humorous about it,
-at the time.
-It was completely different.
And there's just not so many funny people.
Now, we've got a lot of people that say funny things,
but I just don't think there's as many funny people,
sort of just funny bones. Naturally funny.
I don't know. I think it's also to do with the fact
that they're not given the same amount of room to develop, in a way.
-You know, he was given an awful lot of artistic licence.
And I think it's got more to do with the constant churning out,
and everything has to be successful immediately.
-A genuine funny man. I mean... You know?
And I've always... Anything that makes me laugh.
I'm... I think it's so important to laugh.
And we get rare enough occasions in life.
You know, you have to kind of really...
So we've established that you moved to Ireland from Norway.
And then what happened after that?
-Then we moved around Ireland incessantly.
and then my father died when I was 15
and I sort of decided at that point
that I'd had enough of adults,
and that I was adult enough to shape my own destiny,
so I decided to move out of Ireland.
Yeah, I wanted to go to London.
My dad had been offered a job at the Sunday Times
when I was younger.
And he didn't take it in the end.
He was an alcoholic.
And he just couldn't rise to the challenge of anything
that took him out of the...
sort of day-to-day...
the cycle of his life.
And, I think, the pub.
And so he didn't take that chance.
And I think, because of that, in a way,
it just stayed in my head as a...kind of dream.
I felt like it was time for me to, kind of, grab opportunities in life.
-I think, also, if you are confronted with mortality...
..your own mortality and a parent's mortality at that age,
you really do want to get on with your life.
You don't want... You sort of think it could be over at any minute,
so I've just got to go and forge a path now.
So I went.
I moved to London with... actually a friend -
it must have been 1979, I think -
to a squat in West London,
full of Irish people.
-So it didn't...
..it didn't really feel like I'd gone very far
for the first few months.
And then... Yeah.
And then that was it. I stayed, and I stayed in London.
You must have had a great time in those early days.
-Well, the first few years were quite difficult.
You know, I didn't have any money.
You'd take any job you could get.
I worked in a pub, I worked as a waitress on the King's Road,
which was very exciting then,
cos it was sort of during the punk heyday.
And all of those... The Sex Pistols,
and Bob Geldof had moved over from Dublin,
you know, and The Boomtown Rats.
And all of them, the King's Road on a Saturday afternoon,
was just some of the craziest sights you've ever seen.
And, for a young girl, just come over on the boat,
it was just like the world had started all over again.
This was a completely different universe, you know?
It's time to move on to the category of show
that's like a nice bowl of tomato soup
with bread and butter.
Here it is. Your comfort TV.
# Saturday, Saturday... #
Oh! Saturday mornings!
With a hangover.
The ultimate in anarchic kids' TV shows,
Tiswas livened up our Saturday mornings for eight years,
beginning in 1974.
Hosted by Chris Tarrant, amongst others,
it's improvised feel was partly down to
a lack of script or autocue.
I watched it religiously.
-Chris Tarrant, Lenny Henry...
It was the sort of programme
-that there really isn't now on a Saturday morning.
-I know, I know.
Which was... It was perfect for children and adults.
I loved it. I just loved the...
-The anarchy of it, you know?
-Yeah, it was completely anarchic.
And I quite liked that. And the thought that television...
Remember, this is someone who has been brought up on a diet
-of The Late Late Show.
To suddenly see adults behaving like that...
A suicidal Japanese fighter pilot crashed his plane...
LAUGHTER ON TELEVISION
You've got it lucky! Look at them all locked in the cage.
good morning, Daddy.
LAUGHTER ON TELEVISION
I don't know if it's just naivete on my part,
but it really...
I always felt that it looked like it was totally live.
-Like these things did happen as total surprises.
-Oh, it was.
Yeah, I think, without a doubt.
But, you know, yes, it was for the kids,
but I think the parents watched it...
..more than they did.
I was 17
when I would have been watching it, without children.
Reports are coming in that Mr Albert Shortfuse,
who is known as the human cannonball,
was still stuck in the barrel of a cannon...
And there hasn't really been anything like it since.
The doctor has tied a rope around his ankles
and says he is certain that the man will pull through.
LAUGHTER ON TELEVISION
-Tiswas was an absolute institution.
And...particularly in my late teens.
You know, when you would, obviously,
have gone out on a Friday night and wake up
-slightly incapacitated on a Saturday morning.
-This was hango TV for you.
Totally, totally hangover television.
I'd lie there, like this, thinking,
"I'll never do that again. I'll never do that again.
"But I'm not moving till Sunday."
And then watch that.
So what did you do for a living?
I got a job at about 18...
Yeah, 18 or 19, at a record company, Phonogram,
working as an assistant in the PR department.
It was the '80s and record companies had so much money.
They were like banks. It was unbelievable.
I was 19 years old and I was flying to America,
bringing journalists, who were the same age as me
to see bands who were the same age as me.
And we were all, you know, partying.
And, you know, it was an incredible thing to be able to do at that age.
-I saw half the world as a result.
It was just really exciting and I was really, really lucky.
And I did that until my mid-20s.
You worked on Live Aid?
I worked on Live Aid.
Well, I worked with Bob Geldof, I worked on Band Aid.
I was there that morning, when they recorded that single.
-I remember when they recorded it.
-Which was incredibly exciting.
# Feed the world
# Let them know
# It's Christmas time... #
It felt like an incredible and important
-moment in, sort of, pop culture.
# Feed the world. #
-And you were part of it.
So, Mariella, it's your TV heart-throb.
DALLAS THEME PLAYS
My Bobby Ewing! My Bobby! LAUGHTER
Oh, I loved him. This is going to be so embarrassing.
From 1978, the melodramatic lives
of the oil-rich Ewing family
dominated our screens.
Look at him! Oh!
Just think, if I could have landed him...
..I would have been an oil baroness
in Texas now.
Miss Ellie, I was wondering if Cora Kincaid
called about the membership meeting for the Daughters of the Alamo?
That really doesn't look like a film set, does it?
-No, not at all(!) Beautiful interior as well, isn't it?
Mama, Daddy is with Julie Gray right at this minute,
-and I want to know what you intend doing about it.
-JR, shut up.
As the younger of two brothers, Bobby Ewing was the good guy.
The Abel to JR's Cain -
the older brother whose schemes and dirty business
became the hallmark of the show.
-Brilliant acting, though(!)
Did you tell her? Is that how she found out?
-Somebody had to say something.
And there's your heart-throb.
Look at him. And always so well turned out.
Well-dressed. And, of course, he went on to Man from Atlantis.
-Yeah, I didn't love him any more then.
No, I was a bit fickle. I went off him.
Just butt out of it, you hear me? Leave him alone!
Not on your life! Hey!
-Oh, this is classic television.
When you are brought up on a diet of quality like this,
it's very hard to settle for second best.
It wouldn't have done any good.
It'd done me some good. It'd helped me a whole hell of a lot.
-That was pure glamour.
-Again, a whole other world.
-Escapism, total escapism.
-And fabulous. The drama!
-The shoulder pads.
-The shoulder pads.
-It was like Greek tragedy.
You know, the depths of despair, the heights of ecstasy,
-the affairs, the revenge...
Now we move on to your TV hero, Mariella.
One of my all-time comedy gods,
it is the legend
that is the one and only...
APPLAUSE ON TELEVISION
Listen to that from the audience.
After his TV debut in 1947,
Tommy Cooper made us laugh for the next 36 years.
Oh, there's a pound note.
-I thought it was...
His whole body language and everything.
He is brilliant, isn't he?
Just a funny man, like Peter Sellers.
Really funny, really gifted.
-And, again, sort of allowed enough rope to do his own thing.
I want to make the white one,
so it will come to the top.
His trademark fez dated back to wartime Cairo,
where, whilst performing for the troops,
he borrowed a passing waiter's hat.
After getting a huge laugh,
he kept it as part of his routine,
and the rest is history.
Look at that.
-Put it in the middle!
In the middle? All right. How's that?
-No expense spared on the set, as you can see.
HE SIGHS HEAVILY
-You don't know if it's for real or not, do you?
But that was one of the things.
I think, in the same way as Clouseau,
he keeps you on the edge of your seat,
cos you're not quite sure where
-comedy and tragedy meet with him.
And where disaster and success meet.
Do you think it stands the test of time?
-Yeah, just listen to the audience.
-I think yeah.
Yeah, without a doubt.
-I think great comedy does.
-I think that's what great comedy is.
It's something... It's universal, you know?
And it translates for everybody.
So did you ever meet Tommy Cooper?
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. That's...
In a way, that's why I started watching him,
because I didn't know that much about him.
I met him when I was about 14 in Dublin,
and I had a Saturday job,
working in a restaurant called The Blackboard.
And he came in on a Saturday night with his wife,
and I was their waitress.
And they were having dinner and, at a certain point,
he went off to go to the loo.
And five minutes went by,
ten minutes went by, 15 minutes went by.
And, eventually, his wife called me over and she said,
"Have you seen my husband?"
And I didn't know.
I said, "Well, no. I think he went to the bathroom".
And she said,
"You couldn't possibly go and check on him, could you?"
And the only man in the restaurant at the time was the chef,
and he was in the middle of cooking,
so I had to go down into the gents',
and he was fast asleep, sitting on the toilet.
And I had to wake him up and send him back upstairs to his wife.
But he was...actually very sweet when he woke up.
He just sort of went...
"Oh, thank you". Just kind of pulled himself together,
went back upstairs, sat down and finished his dinner,
having had his little nap.
So I watched him more avidly after that.
Now, he also made the fez one of the most iconic hats on TV.
-But I've got a few more now.
Do you remember Tommy Cooper used to do the hat routine
-where he used to put them on?
So I've got a few more hats now,
and I'm going to model them.
I want you to tell me, who does this one belong to?
Are you going to do any sort of acting to go with it?
-Do you think I have do?
-Just a little clue.
A little something. A little, you know...
Just a tiny little...
-OK. Are you ready?
-Oh, Rik, Rik, Rik Mayall!
-Rik, Rik, Rik Mayall.
-Yes. Yeah, Rik Mayall. Young One.
I have no idea...
You see, this is quite difficult for me, because I haven't...
-..watched that much television,
but I'm afraid this is so iconic
-that I am going to get it right.
-It's Coronation Street.
And it's Hilda Ogden.
-She is a kind of British icon.
-Is that Auf Wiedersehen, Pet?
-Steptoe and Son?
-IN YORKSHIRE ACCENT:
-IN YORKSHIRE ACCENT: Yorkshire.
Do you want to ask the audience?
-He's in Last of the Summer Wine.
-Last of the Summer Wine!
-I've heard of that.
OK, so he used to pick up rubbish in Wimbledon.
Oh! Oh, The Wombles?
-We go for the finale.
-How could I have forgotten The Wombles?
Well done indeed. You've done well there.
You deserve a round of applause. Thank you.
-You were very helpful, though.
-I've messed me hair up and everything.
This was your must see TV.
Starting in the early '90s, Absolutely Fabulous poked fun
at the glamorous world of PR and fashion
for five hilarious series.
Jennifer Saunders just managed to encapsulate everything
that was tacky and hilarious about the 1980s.
And her bedroom and the futon
You know, the clothes and...
It was just genius.
Inspired by a French and Saunders sketch
called Modern Mother and Daughter,
it starred Jennifer Saunders...
..alongside Joanna Lumley.
I just nodded off.
I mean, she's such a wonderful actress,
that she doesn't mind looking like that.
They were... Well, she looks amazing.
-Look how beautiful she is.
-Even with all the black stuff on her face and her hair frizzed up.
I loved that show. It was so...
..exciting to see a funny programme
-made up only of women.
Aside from anything else, because television,
up until that point, had been so male-dominated.
-Aside from things from America, like Mary Tyler Moore
and stuff like that,
and to see women behaving appallingly badly
and being hilariously funny in the process...
So were you a Patsy or an Eddy?
-Oh, both. I mean, you can't have one without the other, can you?
You know, that's what's so great about them.
They are just a brilliant double act.
And we'd never thought of women as a double act in that way.
-I was in Ab Fab!
Yeah, yeah. I did...
Oh, it was one of the best jobs ever!
I spent a week recording an episode.
That's how long they used to do, five days at Television Centre,
recording an episode.
And I was in a book club,
and Kristin Scott Thomas was in it as well.
And, obviously, Patsy and Edina.
And it was just so funny. I couldn't believe it.
I had to keep pinching myself that I was there,
in the midst of this programme that I'd watched so often.
-And absolutely loved.
Are we going to talk
-about a book at all?
-We've only done ten minutes
on the mags, Mariella!
Some of us haven't got all afternoon.
Are you in a time warp?
Was you nervous about doing it?
No. No, I was excited. It was...
The thing was, cos I'm not an actress,
I didn't feel much pressure.
-I think Kristin Scott Thomas felt a lot more pressure than I did.
I just sort of had to be me, and, you know,
that's not that much of a challenge.
-Seeing as I am me.
You don't find it a bit of a stretch.
-Did you read it?
Well, yeah, yeah.
But I skimmed - I'm a skimmer.
-But we had such a laugh.
We all used to hang out in Patsy's dressing room...
-Well, Joanna Lumley's dressing room.
Which was all leopard...
-It was exactly like you'd expect it to be.
Leopard-print things and, you know,
Bolly in a bucket,
and it was just brilliant.
It just so didn't disappoint, in any shape or form.
-But she is...
I think she's an absolute genius,
Now we're bringing it back to your own television career.
-Oh, no, let's not.
It's going to be some hideous clip of me
from, you know, Big World Cafe,
which was my very first television job.
-We wouldn't do that to you.
-I was so petrified that I just...
-..spoke like this all the time,
cos I was just really scared.
This is your big break. SHE GASPS
Oh, my God, that's going to be so weird!
I've never watched myself.
Big World Cafe.
Oh, we were so proud of these opening titles.
-You were so proud of them?
-We thought they were amazing.
Radical. They're not bad.
Big World Cafe showcased bands from around the globe,
and played for two series on Channel 4 in 1989.
My heart used to be beating so hard by now.
This next group from Boston have released two LPs already here,
which have topped the independent chart.
Oh, my God! That's so embarrassing!
-I can't switch it off!
Reviewers have described them as "the Talking Heads..."
I've still got that belt.
And here they are - Throwing Muses!
Why is it so embarrassing?
Well, I never, ever...
I sort of...I feel that watching yourself
is a bit like going to an office and working for the day,
and then watching it again.
Why would you? You know, I just don't get it.
And maybe I'd be a much better presenter
if I watched and learned from my mistakes.
So how did you get this job?
Well, I was working in the music business. I was working for that record company.
And I'd sort of met a lot of people,
and they were talking about doing this new music programme
for Channel 4, and they wanted presenters
who actually knew what they were talking about,
which is so unusual!
And they wanted people who knew about music,
and so I auditioned for it.
I think I was probably the sort of, you know...
You've never been a blonde totty!
It certainly wasn't for my skills, was it?
Well, those are very early days. SHE LAUGHS
-It was my first ever...
-..television programme, that.
So what was it like, being in front of the cameras?
When I heard that music, the sort of countdown music,
I just remember being totally paralysed with fear.
And I think...
I remember there being a review
written by a guy called Marcus Berkmann,
at the time, and he described me as
"the glacially pretty Mariella Frostrup."
And I think he got the "glacially" bit from the fact that
I was just so terrified that I spoke monotone...
-like this the whole time,
cos I was just trying to get the words out of my lips,
while my heart was just pounding in my chest.
So do you remember when people started to pick up on your voice?
Yeah, you know, I don't think that people really said much
about my voice until I was in the public eye.
-So I don't know what that means.
My voice has always been the same, and, in fact,
my sister has a very similar voice.
And, in fact, a lot of Scandinavians
have quite, sort of, husky tones.
Well, there was one show that mimicked you.
-Oh, Spitting Image!
I loved Spitting Image. That was a brilliant programme.
So, did you actually have a puppet?
-And that was probably the greatest honour of my career.
Yeah, to have your own puppet on Spitting Image!
-Shall we take a look?
-Oh, I love to. I loved her.
What's going on? Where is Mariella? We're up to speed!
-Ooh! Something terrible's happened. She can't go on.
Spitting Image burst onto our TV screens in 1984.
-It's her voice.
-Oh, you don't mean...?
-Yes! It's completely cleared up!
The series ran for 12 years,
and at its peak was watched by 15 million people.
I used to be the sexiest voice on TV, you know.
I'll call a doctor.
Every time she appeared, I just used to think,
"Life doesn't get better than this." It's so funny and weird,
and what a huge sort of compliment, in a way.
But I loved that programme.
I liked her so much.
Though, that one,
I look like a cross between me and Anneka Rice, I think.
It was so clever, the writing was so clever,
and the puppets were just genius,
-in terms of how they caricatured people.
I thought it was a fantastic show.
-And great voice-overs, you know? Steve Coogan there.
-All of the people who are top comedians now
were all employed by that show.
The Spitting Image puppets were stars in their own right.
But behind the masks,
young, unknown comedians like Steve Coogan
were cutting their teeth for the first time on TV.
Still at drama college, Coogan became the voice of Neil Kinnock,
John Major and Stephen Fry.
Whilst a young Chris Barrie was behind
Sean Connery, President Bush and Reagan.
John Thomson started out on his career
voicing Nigel Kennedy, Paul Gascoigne and Bill Clinton.
And a then young impressionist,
perfected Tony Blair and Prince Charles.
So what happened to the puppet?
-I tried to buy her.
-They had a...
Yeah, they didn't auction and I thought...
They had an auction at Sotheby's, I think.
When they'd completely finished the show,
they took all the puppets out of the warehouse
and they had this auction,
and I just didn't think anyone would want her.
And I put a top bid in, I thought, of £500.
You know, it's a lot of money for a, you know...
-For a puppet.
-And I was outbid.
Who would buy a puppet of somebody...?
-I get why
-might want it.
It's nostalgic, you can put it in the attic,
show it to the kids.
-Maybe Annie bought it?
-I bet it was Anneka.
"That's me." Yeah.
-To stick pins in.
Well, that must have been a proud moment for you.
But what other stand-out proud moments have you...
Spring to mind from your illustrious career?
And don't say none.
No, the only other one that I can think of, really,
was when I was away for a weekend with my best friend.
And I got a call,
on a very early generation mobile phone,
to ask me if I would be a judge of the Booker Prize.
-And that was really important to me,
because, I suppose,
my dad had died when I was young, you know, at 15,
and I slightly idolised him for a long time,
-because of the fact that he died, I guess.
You know, which is what you tend to do, as a kid.
And he'd been incredibly bookish, and, you know,
he thought that literature was everything,
and that you could almost live an entire life just by reading books.
And I knew...
I didn't think he'd have had much truck with television
or anything like that.
He just would have thought it was all a bit silly and superficial.
-But I knew that he would have been proud of that.
And so it really meant a lot.
-You're not going to get emotional on me?
-I always get emotional.
I always get emotional when I talk about him. It's terrible.
-Well, you lost him at a young age, so...
..it's bound to be tough.
I think, yeah, exactly. That's what happens.
If you lose a parent young,
they become the, kind of, one on the pedestal.
I think it's very difficult for the other parent,
cos they are always the, sort of, baddie,
who's still around and trying to parent you.
-So I did... I grew out of it.
I'm surprised I went a bit teary there,
cos I used to not be able
-to talk about him at all...
..without crying, and so I slightly gave up talking about him,
and then I realised about 15 years ago,
that I didn't wake up every day missing him.
-And it felt like I'd moved on a bit, and I could talk about him.
-But now I've just gone weepy again.
Mariella, what TV are you watching at the moment?
Well, I watch things with the kids.
They make me watch I'm A Celebrity and Strictly and...
And I watch...
I quite like you know, all those wildlife...
I love David Attenborough,
and I love all those programmes about the ocean and the desert.
And I love the news.
I'm a kind of news addict,
but I think that's a product of being a child
of the, sort of, Cold War era, in a way, because you used to want to...
-You'd wake up in the morning and you wanted to know...
-You're still here.
..that there hadn't been Armageddon overnight.
And I'm sure that's deeply buried in my psyche,
you know, just that reassurance.
The radio wakes me in the morning, and I have to hear the news
and hear the headlines before I even think of getting out of bed.
Is there anyone on the news that you like especially?
Oh, I don't want to show favour,
but I do really like Jon Snow.
-You've got a soft spot for Jon?
And I love the Today programme on Radio 4.
That's what I wake up to,
to make sure that the world hasn't, you know, been nuked overnight.
So have you enjoyed it?
Oh, I loved it.
-Well, I'm pleased you enjoyed it.
Well, I've enjoyed it, because I never, never
need to watch Big World Cafe again.
Seen that, done that, been there.
Oh, look, we give our guests the opportunity now
to play us out with a theme tune.
You don't have to do it.
Thank God for that, cos I'm really not musical.
But we'd like you to pick a theme tune
that we can play out.
Well, one of the other shows that I used to watch a lot as a kid,
and we really used to love, and my kids now love the movies of,
-is Mission Impossible.
-And it just had
-most recognisable theme tune.
You've picked the best one.
You know, if I was sitting there,
-that would be my choice.
-You're absolutely gorgeous.
-It's been a pleasure meeting you.
-Thank you so much.
-Thank you, Mariella.
-It's been a pleasure.
-My thanks to Mariella.
APPLAUSE And my thanks to you
for watching The TV That Made Me.
We will see you next time. Bye-bye!
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE INTRO PLAYS
Oh, that was so much fun.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE THEME PLAYS
Journalist and presenter Mariella Frostrup joins Brian on the sofa to take a look back at the classic television that made her the person she is today.
We find out how her love of a children's show featuring a cross-eyed lion made a huge impression on her in those early days, and how Tiswas helped nurse her through the odd hangover. Mariella reveals a close encounter with a comedy legend and tells Brian what it was like to work with others on shows like Absolutely Fabulous.
She speaks openly about her childhood and describes how she felt when she picked up the Big World Cafe microphone for the very first time.