That’s Life ! – 1973

That’s Life was the consumer magazine show that ran for a marathon 442 episodes over 21 series between 1973 and 1974.  Consumer magazine classic comedy ? –  No, but That’s Life presented by Esther Rantzen was not all serious issues and over it’s run it also produced some unforgettable comedy moments and that’s what we’re interested in and that made it must see Sunday Night TV.


Who’d have thought consumer affairs could be so funny ?

Each week alongside some very successful awareness campaigns and consumer issues That’s Life would feature some lighter more humorous issues.  Proving popular with viewers, over time these would take up a greater part of the program.

Memorable moments included: the ‘Jobsworth’ .  This exposed companies and authorities who had implemented obscure regulations and policies causing more grievances than they aimed to correct.  A famous example was the British Rail worker who was asked by a passenger in a dining car for the toast to be allowed to cool before the butter was put on.  He advised that as the menu said hot buttered toast that was what it had to be.

Another feature: ‘Heap of the Week’, viewers would write in regarding annoying, unreliable domestic appliances and other failed items.  These would then be disposed of in destructive ways to the delight of their owners.

Much humour was found in the final item of each show, particularly in the 1980s and ’90s.  Here various members of the team disguised thermselves as various people or things in locations such as supermarkets and garden centres.  Then suddenly they would break into song, grabbing passers by and getting them to join in.

Some of the more light-hearted features tapped into the British seaside postcard-style humour, being cheeky and suggestive but never out- and – out rude.

The show was also infamous for showcasing unusually shaped vegetables, “odd odes” (humorous poems), comical newspaper and advertisement typographical errors, performing pets (memorably, a dog able to “say” “sausages” and “Esther”).

By 1992 That’s life with it’s mix of hard hitting consumer reports and humorous articles faced stiff competition from much more hard-hitting consumer programs such as the Cook Report.  That’s Life’s mix of both didn’t sit easy with viewers of the 1990’s and viewing figures began to drop.  It was cancelled in 1994.












Esther Rantzen
Grant Baynham (1986–1989)
Bill Buckley (1982–1985)
Gavin Campbell (1982–1994)
Kevin Devine (1991–1994)
Michael Groth
Paul Heiney (1979–1981)
George Layton 1973
Howard Leader (1990–1994)
Adrian Mills (1985–1994)
Kieran Prendiville (1973–1978)
Chris Serle (1979–1981)
Scott Sherrin
Bob Wellings 1973
Glyn Worsnip (1973–1979)

Humour Presenters

Maev Alexander
Pam Ayres
Tommy Boyd
Doc Cox (1982–1989)
Simon Fanshawe
Cyril Fletcher (1973–1981)
John Gould
Joanna Munro (1982–1984)
Mollie Sugden (1986)


Channel: BBC1
Original Transmission Dates: 26th May 1973 – 19th June 1994

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2 Responses

  1. Carolyn Mixture

    I would like to see the episode of that’s life with Christine Newman in it. She ate wood. She is my mum, I was young when this was shown so would like the opportunity to see it again


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