This Is Your Life

This Is Your Life

"This Is Your Life" was a television documentary series hosted by its producer, Ralph Edwards. It originally aired in the United States from 1952 to 1961, and again in 1972 on NBC. It originated as a radio show airing from 1948 to 1952 on NBC Radio. A version of it continues a very long run in the United Kingdom starting in 1955, and another version is still running in Australia. It has also been broadcast from time to time in New Zealand.

The concept

The format of the show was simple: the host would surprise someone (usually a celebrity or public figure, occasionally an ordinary citizen) and, consulting his "red book", conduct a biography of the subject in a television studio. The subject would be presented with family members and old friends, reunited with old acquaintances, and often shed a tear when a personal tragedy was recounted.

The 1950s edition of the show was aired live before a theater audience. The celebrity guests were ambushed by Ralph Edwards and confronted by the microphone and cameras. They made their way to the studio during the first commercial break. Most of the honorees quickly got over their initial shock and enjoyed meeting bygone friends again. Pioneer movie producer Mack Sennett's response was typical: he hated being caught off-guard, but as the tribute progressed he relaxed, and by the end of the show he was quite pleased with the experience.

Advance planning for the broadcast meant that, inevitably, certain celebrities would know in advance about the surprise. Carl Reiner later admitted that he knew beforehand about his appearance.

Some celebrities were unpleasantly surprised. Angie Dickinson refused to appear, [ [ Armor Archerd] : [ This is Angie Dickinson's Life] , 16 November 2005] and Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy was angered by being "tricked" into what would be the team's only American television appearance on December 1, 1954. The meticulous Laurel later said, " [Oliver Hardy] and I were always planning to do something on TV. But we never dreamed that we would make our television debut on an unrehearsed network program... I was damned if I was going to put on a free show for them," although he mellowed in later years when so many viewers told him how much they enjoyed the show. Lowell Thomas was probably the most hostile and annoyed on-air guest. When host Ralph Edwards tried to assure him that he would enjoy what was to come, Thomas replied, "I doubt that very much."

Attempted revivals

Edwards would revive the series twice in syndication, the first one with Edwards again as host and in 1983 with Joseph Campanella. Both failed to capture the magic of the original series, mostly due to the series being filmed or taped and, in the case of the '71-'72 version, some stations that aired it gave away the surprise elements in ads and promos for the show.

In November 2005, ABC announced that it was developing a new version of the show, to be hosted by Regis Philbin. Coincidentally, the show's creator, Ralph Edwards, died not long after the announcement was made. In August 2006, Philbin decided not to renew his contract with the show (he was committed to hosting "America's Got Talent" on NBC), and ABC is considering moving forward with another host. [ [ "ABC Contemplates Life Without Regis"] , "Broadcasting & Cable", August 30, 2006.] [ [ "TV Q&A with Rob Owen"] , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 25, 2006.]

In May 2007, on the popular television series American Idol, Sir Trevor McDonald presented Simon Cowell with the infamous red book. The full version of the revived show was broadcast on Saturday June 2nd on British television.

In October 2008, Survivor producer Mark Burnett announced his was developing another revival of the series, though the project is yet to be attached to any network. [ [ Mark Burnett Does 'This Is Your Life'] ]

The UK version

The show was adapted in several countries, including the United Kingdom, where it was launched in 1955 on the BBC and was presented by Eamonn Andrews (who also ended up being the first "victim"). It ended in 1964 when Eamonn Andrews moved to ABC, but it was revived on ITV (produced by Thames Television) in 1969, and Michael Aspel (himself [ a "victim" in 1980] ) became presenter after Andrews died in 1987. It returned to the BBC in 1994, though it was still produced independently by Thames Television, and was axed in 2003. The show made its return on the ITV Network in June 2007, produced by SMG Productions and ITV Productions. One notable difference to previous UK runs is that the programme's subject was trailed in advance.

The Australian version

In Australia, the show was aired on the Nine Network on Thursday nights for a relatively short annual season. It began in 1975 on the Seven Network, hosted by Michael Willesee. Subsequent seasons were compered by Digby Wolfe (1976) and Roger Climpson (1977 - 1980). The program was re-launched on the Nine Network in 1995, hosted by Mike Munro.

The New Zealand version

Thirty-nine New Zealanders have been honoured in the New Zealand version of the show, which has been broadcast on and off since 1984 [] on Television New Zealand's TVOne. It was originally hosted by Bob Parker (1984-1996), but more recent episodes have been presented by Paul Holmes (1996-2000) and Paul Henry (2007-2008). Most recently, racecar driver Scott Dixon was honoured, on 21 September 2008. Other recent recipients have included extreme sports pioneer, A.J Hackett (who was profiled on 6 November 2007.) Mark Inglis (who lost his legs on Mt Cook in 1982), the subject of an episode that was broadcast on 5 June 2007, and former All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu, who was honoured in a show that aired on 9 April 2007.

Prior to that, the last "This Is Your Life" programme in New Zealand was broadcast in September 2000. The subject of that episode was the great New Zealand runner, Peter Snell. Previous subjects of the show have included prominent figures in sports (such as John Walker, Sir Peter Blake, Mark Todd, Lance Cairns, Scott Dixon and Colin Meads), the arts (like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who also once appeared on the British edition of the show, Dame Malvina Major, Rob Guest, Rowena Jackson and Sir Howard Morrison), politics (e.g. Sonja Davies and Dame Catherine Tizard), broadcasting (like Sir Geoffrey Cox, Nola Luxford, Selwyn Toogood and Davina Whitehouse), literature (Barbara Ewing and A.K. Grant), science (Brian Harold Mason and William Pickering) and the military (Johnny Checketts and Charles Upham). The show has also featured iconic New Zealanders such as mountaineer and explorer Sir Edmund Hillary and Maori activist Dame Whina Cooper.


* "Your Show of Shows" did a devastating spoof of this show, titled "This Is Your Story" (broadcast April 3, 1953), in which emcee Carl Reiner surprises Sid Caesar, who can't stop crying and embracing the friends and relatives on stage.
* Merrie Melodies cartoon "This is a Life?" (1955) with Elmer Fudd as the host, Bugs Bunny as the guest of honor, and Yosemite Sam as the mystery guest.
* Ralph Edwards appeared on an episode of "The Flip Wilson Show" to do a "This is Your Life" of Wilson's character Geraldine Jones.
* Edwards himself was the recipient of a "This Is Your Life" spoof when he appeared as a guest on "The Mike Douglas Show" (Edwards for years said that if any member of his staff ever surprised him by making him the central subject of his own "This Is Your Life" show, he would fire them.)
* "Are You Being Served?" spoofed "This Is Your Life" with Young Mr. Grace as the guest in the 1977 Series Five episode "Founder's Day".
* "Fairly Oddparents" had a spoof of this show, with Cosmo as the guest star.
* "Sesame Street" also had a recurring spoof called "Here is Your Life", showing the life and times of several everyday items, like a loaf of bread, an oak tree, a shoe, etc. It was hosted by Guy Smiley.
*"The Electric Company" had a one shot spoof, called "This Was Your Life".
* Donald Duck was the honored guest on a version of "This is Your Life" hosted by Jiminy Cricket, put out as an episode of "The Wonderful World of Disney".
* German sketch comic Loriot also spoofed the show.
* "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" aired a spoof episode which featured Zorak.
* Monday Night Raw in 1999 Mick Foley presented then tag Team Partner The Rock with a This is Your Life type presentation. Years later The Rock would return the favor.
* The Internet flash cartoon Happy Tree Friends featured an episode titled "This Is Your Knife," a spoof on the show's name.
*Jack Chick wrote a tract entitled "This Was Your Life," where God reviews someone's life after death.
* The Price Is Right featured a spoof of the show in a showcase entitled "Janice Pennington, This Is Your Strife," with Johnny Olson reading from a red book recalling Pennington's various mishaps with prizes.
*A "This Is Your Life" re-enactment constitutes of the animated short Batfink.
*In the Viva Pinata television series Hudson Horstachio is brought onto a similar show called "This Here's Your Life"
*On "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in 1982, Johnny Carson surprised Burt Reynolds with his own comedic version of "This Is Your Life", with Dom DeLuise appearing as Burt's assistant.


External links

* [ Encyclopedia of Television: "This is Your Life"]
* [ This Is Your Life (US) radio and TV episode list] at Classic TV Info.
* [ This Is Your Life (UK) credits and list of "victims" from 1969 to 1992]
* [ Page on the TVNZ Web site about "This Is Your Life", including a complete list of everyone (now updated to include the show about Jonah Lomu) featured on the show to date]
* [ Interview with Paul Henry, the new host of the NZ version, also on the TVNZ site]
* [ Small article about Bob Parker, the original host of the NZ version]
* [;adv=yes;group=;groupequals=;holdingType=;page=0;parentid=;query=138120;querytype=;rec=0;resCount=10 This is Your Life at the National Film and Sound Archive]

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