|This is my contribution to Round Eleven of ABC Wednesday and again I am focusing on people, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten.|
This is Your Life was the popular biographical programme that appeared on tv in America, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden and it it is the UK version that Andrews is best remembered.
Andrews was Irish, having been born on Synge Street, Dublin, the same street as playwright George Bernard Shaw, albeit more than 65 years later in 1922.
He began his broadcasting career as a sports commentator for the Irish national station, Radio Éireann, and by 1950 he had become a presenter for the BBC, particularly commentating on boxing contests, Andrews having been a useful amateur boxer himself.
He gained a wider audience as the chairman of the popular radio panel game, What’s My Line, and was chosen to be the bearer of The Big Red Book in 1955.
Indeed, he was the very first ‘victim’ of the show in the UK, but more of that later. Andrews hosted the show in two stints, from 1955 to 1964 and 1969 until his sudden death from heart failure 1987.
The gap is explained by his leaving the BBC in 1965 to join the commercial Associated British Corporation where he pioneered the talk show on UK television.
He became well-known for his hopeless ad-lib links. For example, ‘Speaking of cheese sandwiches, have you come far?’ This habit was lampooned mercilessly by Bill Pertwee on Round the Horne with his Seamus Android character.
After he died, Andrews was replaced on TiYL by Michael Aspel, but Eamonn remains the original and the best, at least as far as I’m concerned.
But as I mentioned above, Andrews was the very first unsuspecting subject of the UK This is Your Life in 1955. The show was presented by its American creator, Ralph Edwards, and Andrews believed that his friend, the boxer Freddie Mills sitting next to him in the audience, was the target.
Also in the audience were the likes of Boris Karloff, Bebe Daniel and Ben Lyon and Andrews was taken completely unawares. Here is a YouTube clip from that very first show: