Nostalgic television: That’s Life – life summed up in 40 minutes

AFTER watching a bit of Bully (Bullseye) and hearing the theme tune to Highway, you knew that the weekend was almost over and Monday morning would soon be kicking you up the backside into the world of weekday reality. But stop… there was one television programme that made the Sunday evening Monday morning transition bearable: that programme was That’s Life!

Reality TV

Hosted by the caring Esther Rantzen, That’s Life was a roller-coaster of laughter and serious topical issues – think of Watchdog and Points of View blended together and served up on Sunday evenings – voila!

The typewriter, articles and misprints

Viewers were encouraged to send in photos of posters, signs, newspaper and magazine articles with misprints, mis-spelt words and sentences that had connotations opposite to the subject matter. We must bear in mind that typewriters did not have spell-checks – if an error was spotted, then out came the bottle of Tipp-Ex. If the misprint wasn’t corrected,the error could be hilarious enough to end up on the programme. Maybe a letter to Mr Gates at Microsoft asking him to kindly remove the red underlining feature on MS Word could get the ball rolling in churning out more crying-with-laughter articles.

Let’s provide a solution

Imagine the scenario of false teeth being so badly fitted that they pack their bags and leave home each time the wearer opens their mouth. This was the case for one poor gentleman – he had tried several dentists but his false teeth still kept leaving home. The solution: a design drawn-up and put together by a motor mechanic. Components used: a wire hanger and bits ‘n’ bobs. The result: does the job but not very attractive or practical!

Out on the streets

The That’s Life team never hesitated when it came to speaking to the public. Rain or shine they’d be out on the streets with camera crew and microphone. There are some questions in life that need answers: Have you ever been given roses? Is kissing strangers good for your health? Are moustaches sexy? One dialogue on the street went like this:

Q: Are you any good at exercises?

A: Hopeless.

Q: Have you ever tried?

A: Errm… I did a few press-ups once.

Q: What Happened?

A: I sort of collapsed.

I’ve been ripped-off!

Over-charged on gas or electricity? Get in touch with the That’s Life team. Dodgy tradespeople, poor customer service, faulty goods, hidden charges, botched medical procedures, over-charged at the supermarket – put pen to paper and let the team sort out the culprits. There was even the prestigious Jobsworth award – an award for enforcing ridiculous rules and sticking to them – one memorable winner was the British Rail on-board catering team …

Customer: Can you not put the butter on the toast whilst still hot – it makes the toast soggy?

British Rail staff: It’s the rule I’m afraid, the butter has got to on straight away.

Customer: Can you not leave the butter on the side?

British Rail staff: I’m afraid not, the rules are that butter has got to go on straight away.

And finally

That’s Life summed up life in the space of 40 minutes – fun and laughter, sadness, compassion and tears, being screwed-over and ridiculous rules! The programme put life into perspective and made the Sunday night Monday morning transition less painful. The next time you’re on a Sunday evening downer, relax and give yourself 40 minutes to stop, relax, reflect and laugh – think of the programme as you crawl into a more balanced, middle of the road place.

Section N Underpass is a fun and factual hardback book looking back at entertainment, advertising and leisure from the 70s and 80s. It will have you in stitches whilst reminiscing! A must-have for nostalgia fans. Read all about it by clicking the cover below:

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