Wogan was a British television talk show which was broadcast on BBC1 from 1982 until 1992, presented by Terry Wogan. The show was generally broadcast live from BBC Television Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush, London until 1991. It was then broadcast from the BBC Television Centre. Some shows were pre-recorded, but broadcast unedited, ‘as live’. Wogan ended its run in July 1992 (it was replaced by the soap opera Eldorado).
Wogan’s first foray into TV interviewing, and indeed to British television, was in 1972 on Lunchtime with Wogan on ITV, in 1973 he left and joined the BBC. In 1981 he was given another chat show; What’s On, Wogan? running for 9 episodes in the spring of that year, primarily on Saturday evenings. In 1981 he had a chance to host a one-off chat show, Saturday Live. Among his guests on this show were Larry Hagman, promoting SOB, and Frank Hall. Hagman was at the height of his fame, which gave the show a high profile. A year later, Wogan was given his own chat show, Wogan, initially broadcast on a Tuesday evening, the series was moved the following year to Saturday nights to replace Parkinson.
When BBC1 was relaunched on 18 February 1985 the show was moved to weekday evenings at 7:00pm, three nights per week, and inter-scheduled with EastEnders to help streamline and maintain viewers throughout the course of the evening, as designed by the then-controller of BBC One, Michael Grade.
“When I took over BBC1, I discovered there were wonderful things, it was just a case of where to put them.” Grade also said “The series would bring a much needed element of surprise and unpredictability to BBC Television”.
By December 1991 Wogan had lost 4 million viewers, and the show was axed. During this time BBC Scotland often moved his Friday edition to a late night slot. The final edition was broadcast on 3 July 1992, and replaced with the ill-fated soap Eldorado.
Wogan briefly hosted a new weekly chat strand Terry Wogan’s Friday Night in October 1992. However the new series was not a success and was cancelled after 20 episodes, ultimately leading to Wogan returning to radio in his Radio 2 breakfast slot.
In 1996 Wogan criticised the BBC over its handling of the show since the BBC had refused his wish to give up the series in 1991, instead carrying on for a further year. Wogan said “I felt peeved by the insensitivity – no, incompetence how it was handled”.
In 2015 BBC Two launched a new compilation series, Wogan: the Best Of featuring selected interview segments and music performances from Wogan’s past chat series, linked by new introductions.
Wogan presented Wogan Now and Then (2006), for UK GOLD produced by Spun Gold Television. Terry Wogan spoke again with former guests from original ‘Wogan’ series. along with new guests. 3 series were made.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes|
|1||4 May 1982||22 June 1982||8|
|2||15 January 1983||16 April 1983||13|
|3||14 January 1984||7 April 1984||13|
|4||22 September 1984||25 December 1984|
|5||18 February 1985||27 December 1985||137|
|6||3 January 1986||December 1986||150|
|7||January 1987||December 1987|
|8||January 1988||December 1988|
|9||January 1989||22 December 1989|
|10||3 January 1990||24 December 1990|
|11||2 January 1991||27 December 1991|
|12||6 January 1992||3 July 1992||78|
Over the course of the show’s run, when Wogan himself was unavailable to host the show, guest presenters were brought in, with Selina Scott being the first stand-in in 1985. Others included Kenneth Williams (in 1986), Ben Elton (in 1989), Joanna Lumley (in 1989), Selina Scott (again in 1991), Jonathan Ross (in 1990), Gloria Hunniford (in 1991), Felicity Kendal, Esther Rantzen and Bruce Forsyth. The most successful stand in was Sue Lawley (in 1988) who became the most frequent replacement for the host and indeed for some time was Wogan’s ‘official’ stand in. When Lawley gained her own late night chat show Saturday Matters with Sue Lawley on BBC1 in 1989, other celebrities again took it in turns to stand in for Wogan.
A number of interviews on the show are well-remembered, and have featured on compilation clip shows. Some examples include:
- Anne Bancroft gave monosyllabic replies during an interview after being told that the show was being broadcast live moments before she left the green room. Wogan later described her as being “in a catatonic trance” and said she “refused to answer certain questions”.
- Ronnie Barker announced his retirement from showbusiness in 1988.
- George Best appeared on the show while drunken and swearing.
- Cilla Black appeared as a guest in 1983. By this point, Black’s career had been largely reduced to performing cabaret in clubs. According to Christopher Biggins in his autobiography, she “stormed back into the public consciousness with a barnstorming performance as a guest on Wogan in 1983, proving that we can all have second chances” and after her appearance, people were “desperately trying to find her the right comeback vehicle”.
- David Bowie refused to co-operate during an impromptu interview following a performance by his band Tin Machine. As Wogan put it: “David Bowie, well he probably wasn’t at his best when I interviewed him. But I thought a solid slap would have helped the situation. I didn’t hit him, of course, but it came close. For some reason best known to him he came on the show unwilling to talk.”
- Geoffrey Boycott talking about his bank account, which was “a proper one, not like Ken Dodd‘s”. Dodd was waiting in the wings to come on next.
- Nicolas Cage appeared on the show in 1990, doing somersaults and karate kicks as he came onto the stage, and then took his T-shirt off during the interview and gave it to Wogan as a gift.
- Chevy Chase remaining silent through his interview.
- Margi Clarke appeared on the show in the late 1980s wearing a scarf with the slogan “Media Sickness – More Contagious Than Aids” (coined by her then-partner Jamie Reid.) During the interview, Clarke asked Wogan what he thought of “media sickness”. This was a ploy on Clarke’s part to get Wogan to say the phrase. As Clarke intended, Wogan responded “Media Sickness?” An off-air recording of Wogan speaking the words “media sickness” was duly sampled by Clarke and Reid and used as a dance record.
- Jackie Collins and Barbara Cartland appeared as joint guests in 1987, in which 86-year-old Cartland proceeded to slam Collins’ novels for their racey content. Actor Ed Asner was also a guest and sat silently watching from the end of the couch as Collins and Cartland verbally sparred.
- Joan Collins was often announced as a potential guest, but always seemed to cancel at short notice, giving rise to media speculation that she was avoiding appearing on the show. When a special Christmas Day edition of the show featuring the cast of Dynasty was broadcast in 1985, Collins again refused to appear, though she did appear on the rival Des O’Connor Tonight show, which was broadcast by ITV at the same time that evening. Eventually, in 1988, she did appear on Wogan, in a special programme dedicated to her. However, a subsequent appearance to promote one of her novels led to an extremely irritated exchange with the host.
- Fanny Cradock made her last BBC TV appearance on the show in 1986 and told Wogan his questioning was “very rude” and “very English”.
- Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan, got into a heated argument with Wogan when he continually interrupted her and refused to allow her to make a point. She told him later in the interview that she was extremely angry at his behaviour.
- Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, in her late nineties, reciting Juliet‘s death scene from Romeo and Juliet, a role she had first performed over eighty years ago.
- Simon Hayward. The BBC stopped an interview in 1989 with Simon Hayward, a former Captain with the Life Guards, just hours before he was due to appear on the Wogan show. Hayward insisted that he was innocent of drug smuggling offences. The decision was taken by the then Controller of BBC 1, Jonathan Powell, after protests from several MPs. However, the BBC was accused of censorship and a Conservative MP, John Gorst, described the decision to ban Hayward from Wogan as “outrageous”.
- Rock Hudson appeared on the show in 1984. He was one of the few American guests that ‘crossed the pond’ to appear on the show. This would become one of Rock Hudson’s last public interviews, as he died of AIDS-related complications a year after.
- David Icke appeared on the show in a turquoise tracksuit and claiming to be “a son of the Godhead“. When the studio audience began to laugh hysterically, Wogan famously responded, “They’re not laughing with you; they’re laughing at you.” However, in the 2000s when Wogan interviewed Icke again on television, he said he regretted his stance on the interview and offered Icke an apology.
- Madonna appeared in a special show, Wogan Meets Madonna in 1991, in which Wogan interviewed her in Cannes. She had requested that the interview was filmed in black and white but was refused.
- Victoria Principal gave a feisty interview in 1984 and was herself crying with laughter at Wogan’s mocking of her series, Dallas. The two became friends and Principal made further appearances on the show via satellite.
- Raquel Welch appeared on the original Saturday night show, but was angered before the interview began when the producers refused to show a clip of her exercise video, which she was promoting. This led to a very taciturn interview with Wogan, where at one point she feigned to forget his name.
- Vivienne Westwood appearing on the show in 1988 when it was being guest-hosted by Sue Lawley, and displaying her latest medically inspired collection. When the audience began to laugh at the outlandish designs, an offended Westwood told Lawley that if they didn’t stop laughing, she would tell the models to stop coming out. This interview would later be parodied in the fictional Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge (TV series).
- Russell Harty was one of the other guests present in one of his last TV appearances.