#3. A Laboured Hosting Job
In 1979, Harold Wilson became, to date, the only prime minister to host a TV show after power – despite Boris Johnson’s four occasions hosting Have I Got News For You before rising to the rank of PM.
Of all PMs over the years, perhaps Wilson was the best choice. With northern connections, a beloved persona (including omnipresent pipe-smoking), and distinct cadence, Wilson had the potential for a second wave of popularity albeit in a completely different profession. In fact, Wilson would go on to appear on the Morecambe and Wise 1978 Christmas special.
Snapped up by future Sir, David Frost, Wilson’s hosting capabilities soon came clear…he had none.
Created by the great Iain Johnstone and Will Wyatt, Friday Night, Saturday Morning was a unique show in many aspects from its fortnightly change of host to the freedom of allowing the host to choose interviewees.
Wilson’s first night was October 12th, 1979, only three years after leaving the role of PM, with Wilson immediately establishing an uncomfortably with the position including a pretty pitiful job at reading the autocue. His first guest was ex-Goon Harry Secombe, who even had to resort to whistling between questions to give Wilson time to think of something to ask. On one occasion after a long pause, Wilson asked the absolutely dire “What do you say you are doing tonight?” Wilson never quite captured the informality of the interview.
The next week was not so teeth-grindingly awkward. Although still quite dry, this is not down to Wilson but various other factors that distinguish this era from today’s interview format. His appearance was certainly aided through his chemistry with guest Mike Yarwood, who had made a career out of his famous impression of Mr. Wilson.
Moving on from his awful stint hosting, Wilson also had a car crash interview with the BBC when interviewed for David Dimbleby’s Yesterday’s Men documentary on Wilson. When asked about the fee he had been paid for his memoirs which were then being written, the ex-PM snapped.
Wilson was extremely taken aback and aggressive in response, commenting: “I’m really not having this!” and forcing the recording to be cut. Calling the question “ridiculous”, Wilson threatened Dimbleby if the interview or transcript were leaked, with Dimbleby perhaps best summing it up in the Days That Shook The BBC documentary as “a storm in a teacup.”
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