Remember the days when televised reunions with surprise guests from your past meant tears of joy, not tears of finding out that your stepsister is secretly sleeping with your boyfriend? These were the days of host Ralph Edwards and a long-running sentimental program called This Is Your Life. Born on radio, the show brought the past back to the present, putting long-lost smiles on the faces of everyone from big-time celebrities to ordinary folk like you and me.
After more than a decade on radio and television, you’d think the surprise-ees would’ve figured out the formula, but few ever did. It all began when the unsuspecting guest was lured near (or even into) the studio in time for the live broadcast. As the show began, Ralph Edwards would surprise the unsuspecting biography-in-the-making, and the guest would be invited onto the set, where a studio audience (and a few surprises) awaited.
The rest of the show was a retelling of the guest’s life, focusing on warm memories and heart-tugging stories. Edwards read the life narrative from inside the large “This Is Your Life” book, and at certain points in the story, an off-screen voice would be heard. The biograph-ee tried to guess the source of the voice—an old friend, a family member, a teacher, a partner, etc.—and the mystery person would come out and share old stories of his or her own.
Once the life tale was all told, Edwards presented the guest of honor with a set of gifts—usually a scrapbook, a bracelet with charms representing highlights of the guest’s life, and a home movie projector, complete with a copy of that day’s This Is Your Life episode. Many tears were shed, and audiences both in the studio and at home were touched.
This Is Your Life was a sentimental favorite throughout the 50’s, as everyone from Laurel and Hardy to heavyweight Joe Louis to non-celebrity housewives, professors and businessmen had his life’s tales told. Most guests were caught totally by surprise, but not in the case of Lillian Roth, the subject of one of the most famous This Is Your Life biographies. The early 30’s musical star had overcome a long struggle with alcoholism, and the pre-planned presentation of her story—sanctioned by Alcoholics Anonymous—became an inspiration to millions.
This Is Your Life stopped live filming in 1959 and left the air two years later, but the ensuing decades brought several revivals. Edwards hosted a syndicated version in the early 70’s, and a second syndicated version—this one hosted by Joseph Campanella—arrived in 1983. A handful of specials have also aired, spotlighting Betty White, Dick Van Dyke, Kathie Lee Gifford and others. And while “reality TV” may have gotten a tad uglier in recent years, there will always be a warm spot in the hearts of 1950’s TV viewers for this warm-hearted ambush biography show.
USA / NBC – Syndicated – Ralph Edwards Productions / Broadcast 1 October 1952 – 10 September 1961 and 1970 and 1983
Ralph Edwards (1952-61,1970)
Joseph Campanella Host (1983)
Bob Warren (1952-61)
Clairvoyant, The (BBC-2 1986, Roy Kinnear, Sandra Dickinson)
In Roy Clarke penned sitcom The Clairvoyant used car salesman Arnold Bristow is knocked down in a car accident and suddenly finds himself with psychic powers – or so he believes. There was a pilot broadcast 27 Nov 1984.
ROY KINNEAR as Arnold Bristow
SANDRA DICKINSON as Lily
HUGH LLOYD as Burma
SHAUN CURRY as Newton
GLYNIS BROOKS as Dawn
CARMEL CRYAN as Carmen
Writer: Roy Clarke
Producer and Director: Alan J.W. Bell
Network and Production Companies: BBC-2
Duration: 6×30 minute episodes
Aired From: Pilot – 27 November 1984 and Series – 15 May – 19 June 1986
Christmas Princess (UP 2017, Nicole Munoz, Zak Santiago)
Christmas Princess is the true story of Donaly Marquez who, through a childhood of neglect and abuse, achieved her dream of becoming a rose bowl princess. An inspirational story of resilience, strength and finding a family to call your own.
Nicole Muñoz as Donaly Marquez
Rosa Blasi as Sara
Zak Santiago as Ignacio Marquez
Olivia Steele Falconer as Emily Marquez
Jaedon Siewert as Abraham Marquez
Lina Renna as Young Donaly
Paloma Kwiatkowski as Chloe
Ty Wood as Trent
Pendo Muema as Monique
Kalyn Miles as Maria
Kaaren de Zilva as Roberta
Garfield Wilson as Dr. Miller
Clay St. Thomas as Judge #1
Patti Allan as Judge #2
Natalie von Rotsburg as Judge #3
Director: Allan Harmon
Writer: Tracy Andreen
Network and Production Companies: UP
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: Sunday 10 December 2017
Christmas Reunion, A (Lifetime 2015, Catherine Hicks, Denise Richards)
In A Christmas Reunion a Madison Avenue executive, Amy, discovers an unusual Christmas surprise when she inherits her Aunt’s hometown bakery. The real surprise comes when she learns the other half of the bakery was left to her long-ago boyfriend, Jack.
Unresolved personal issues resurface between them, as the exes return home to co-manage the store, along with its traditional holiday cookie bake-off.
Denise Richards as Amy Stone
Patrick Muldoon as Jack Evans
Jake Busey as Dylan Carruthers
Catherine Hicks as Aunt Linda
Parker Stevenson as Don Dupree
Patricia De Leon as Janette Crowder
Jon Briddell as Luke Crowder
Robert R. Shafer as Frank O’Brien
Anna Barnholtz as Chloe
John Colton as Steve Evans
Sandra Evans as Shari
Brody Fitzgerald as Young Jack Evans
Michael Gaglio as Earl Pratt, Sr.
Gib Gerard as Earl Pratt, Jr.
Joyce Greenleaf as Helen
Director: Sean Olson
Writers: Margaret Base, Mary Glenn, Sam Irvin, Sean Olson, Peter Sullivan, Michael Varrat
Network and Production Companies: Lifetime – Hybrid
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: 13 December 2015
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