To celebrate Radio Times’ 95th birthday, Jodie Whittaker, Keeley Hawes and Michael Caine are among the celebrities who reveal what it’s like to hit the big time – in Radio Times…
My first Radio Times moment? Consuming Passion: 100 Years of Mills and Boon, November 2008
“One of my first ever Radio Times appearances? Mills & Boon, right? [We show her the clipping.] Yeah, that’s for Consuming Passion! That’s hilarious. I look JUST like my mum in that picture. That is… oh I was… 26! That’s going back ten years. So that’s the first time I was in it? And I’ve never been on the cover till this year! The cover — such a big deal.”
My first Radio Times moment? The Compartment, August 1961
Early in his acting career Michael Caine appeared in a BBC play, The Compartment, a 1961 two-hander penned by the then drama-writing debutant Johnny Speight. Caine starred as a troubled and troublesome beatnik alongside Frank Finlay’s highly strung businessmen, sharing an uneasy train journey in a single compartment.
At the time Speight told Radio Times: “I’ve often thought that a nervous type could get into quite a state of twitch if he found himself alone with some dubious-looking character, knowing there was no chance of getting out until the next station.”
The play was to prove fairly pivotal to Caine’s career; some said it should have won him awards, but the performance certainly landed him more TV work. Not that the BBC appreciated the significance of their archive gem.
“You know what the BBC did with it?” Caine tells us. “I was writing an autobiography and rang them and said that I’d forgotten about it and could they let me have a tape of it. I was told: ‘We don’t have one. We don’t have anything on the show.’ They were going through an economy drive and had re-used the tape. I just thought, ‘Bloody hell — taping over a great little drama just to save a few quid.’”
My favourite Radio Times moment? Absolutely Fabulous, October 2003
“One of my favourite cover pictures is Jennifer Saunders as Edina and me as Patsy looking grotesquely happy to be flanking Elton John, no less, who had just starred in one of the shows. The sense of pride of being on the cover is difficult to describe: something about being singled out for that week’s edition amid all the other dazzling contributions.
“Each new programme I do keeps its fingers crossed: ‘Maybe it will be us!’ “Long live Radio Times and a thousand thanks for all your kindness to me.”
My first Radio Times moment? Spooks, 31st May 2003
“It’s always a great honour, a pleasure and a privilege to be on the cover of Radio Times. Matthew [Macfadyen, Hawes’s husband] and I had some covers together because of Spooks, which is quite unusual I suppose, and they’re all up on my mother-in-law’s kitchen wall.
“When you get older, people joke, ‘Weren’t you on the first cover of Radio Times?’ I was not! But earlier in your career, when you think you’re going to be on the cover of Radio Times and then you’re not — that’s disappointing.”
My favourite Radio Times moment? The Great British Bake Off/The Chronicles of Nadiya, August 2016
“I love this shoot (above). I want all of these pictures in my downstairs toilet. At first I was really worried because of the wastage. I thought, ‘If we’re going to throw all these spices around, what’ll to happen to them afterwards?’ and then ‘Oh my goodness, have they been daft enough to get chilli powder?’ Imagine throwing it in the air and it all lands in your hair, your eyes and your face! Luckily, there wasn’t chilli powder but there was turmeric. I was like, ‘Come on guys, that’s worse than chilli powder because it stains and I’m going to get that everywhere!’
“What was lovely about this shoot was there were racks of clothes with loads of prints — and I love a good print. I wore things I wouldn’t normally wear because I’ve not always been confident with my clothes or my own body. So sometimes when somebody else says, ‘I think that will look good on you,’ it makes you feel confident. As a result, I definitely think that over the last three years my style has changed. I used to wear a lot of black because it made me feel safe. I felt hidden. But now I wear lots of colour and prints, and I put my own stuff together and I’m really happy with that now.”
My favourite Radio Times moment? Paul Merton’s Beatles, August 2017
“Being a huge fan of the Beatles’ LP Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I experienced mixed emotions when approached by Radio Times to reproduce the album cover. First I thought it was a terrible idea and would look awful, but I was persuaded it would work. Thanks to the brilliant photographer Andy Earl, the results were absolutely extraordinary. So much so that in my fading years I may well come to believe that I was actually all four Beatles and it’s a shame I split up.”
My favourite Radio Times moment? Strictly Come Dancing, September 2014
“To be asked to be on the cover of Radio Times is a total and utter honour, a privilege. Whenever I’ve been asked, I’ve just sat, mouth agape, body covered in goose bumps and then skipped about all day. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to take part in two — one without a fringe and one holding a spatula. The shoots are properly fun (and this is major as I’m allergic to having my photo taken) and the whole team are so lovely, kind and clever. You’re brilliant, Radio Times. Happy, happy birthday!”
My favourite Radio Times moment? The Apprentice, March 2012
“I can remember being in the Radio Times offices when I was a guest editor for an issue back in 2012. The Apprentice was about to enter its eighth series, and I took charge of the magazine for a week to celebrate. I can’t quite believe the 14th series will be on BBC1 this week!
“In my role as editor, I interviewed Harry Redknapp, who was managing Spurs at the time, down at the training ground. I enjoyed meeting with the editorial team and making the decisions about what we should cover in the magazine that week.
“Radio Times is one of those trailblazers of British media — the first TV listings magazine, which has gone from strength to strength in a tough market. I’m grateful for the continued support they’ve given myself and The Apprentice over the years. Even if they didn’t keep me on as editor!”
My favourite Radio Times moment? BBC News, July 2004
“The first time I appeared on a Radio Times cover wasn’t long after I’d been given the job of presenting the six o’clock news. It felt like the royal seal of approval. I’ve not seen the picture for years, but I remember we all posed around the news desk and I looked around me and could hardly believe I was there. Radio Times is something I grew up with — my parents bought it every week without fail and my dad highlighted programmes they wanted to watch. Every time I’ve appeared on the cover, it’s felt like a real honour.”
My favourite Radio Times moment? Lenny Goes to Town, September 1998
“My favourite Radio Times cover is the one of me in a red suit with the tyre marks for a TV show called Lenny Goes to Town. We’d shot a pilot Lenny Henry Gets Wild in Northampton and had Mica Paris singing the Northampton anthem but made in an R&B style. I did a Fugees rap about Northampton and lots of jokes about the show coming from Northampton that week. Surprisingly, they gave us a series.
“Radio Times has always been very supportive and they liked the whole idea — ‘Hey, let’s literally get Lenny on the road. Geddit?’ and so the photograph is me on my back pretending that I’ve just been run over. Unfortunately, while it was being taken I was having flashbacks to when I was run over in Dudley. Once, outside my primary school, I was knocked down by a double decker bus. Thankfully, Jamaican food breeds hardy children. Although I flew head over heels and landed hard on my back, I got up without a scratch. I was also knocked down by a coach on Dixons Green Road in Dudley — once again, although I performed a perfect somersault, I wasn’t hurt.
“So there I am having my photograph taken lying on my back and imagining a big tyre mark over my new red suit… praying for the whole thing to be over soon…”
My favourite Radio Times moment? Midday Spin, August 1967
“One of my big moments was reading my first mention in Radio Times. It was in 1967, advertising my show Midday Spin on the BBC Light Programme. That was when I knew I’d fulfilled my dream of being on the BBC.”
My favourite Radio Times moment? Radio Times 80th birthday issue, 2003
“This is the coolest picture ever. We’ve got a big print of it in our office, in the Delia Smith Meeting Room. Like most of Britain, I love Delia. She was very well established when this was taken — probably winding stuff down a bit — but still the matriarch, and still is. I love the fag in her mouth — I’m sure Radio Times wouldn’t shoot that now. It was in a café called the Shepherdess, an old institution next to Fifteen, my first restaurant. This was just after Jamie’s Kitchen, our documentary series about training young people for the new restaurant.
“Radio Times came up with the scenario. We were told, ‘Delia, this is your gaff, you’re the governor and this little s**t has come in. He’s on your turf and asked for fussy, fancy stuff. Give him a bit of grief.’ She played the part brilliantly. She looks superior, chin stuck out.
“There’s another side to Delia that people haven’t seen: she is really funny. She’s got banter. She and her mum together are the best company — I got sandwiched between them a couple of times at dinners, and it’s, like, the best night out ever! That’s why I’ve asked every year for probably ten years, ‘Can I direct your Christmas special?’ Even for us to do it together. I’d love to bring that side out. But I always get a polite no!”