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Hello, Surprise! Goodbye

British TV Star Cilla Black
CBS
Anyone watching this who is in the business of appearing on TV will understand this only too well. The relationship that “we” have, with “them”, the people on the other side of the camera, is at best an uneasy one.

We think we know better… they KNOW they know better. And that clash of personalities often resolves itself at the end of the relationship. At that moment, when it’s time to move on. To leave. To say goodbye to the show you’ve jealously guarded for so many years. To take the long and lonely walk.

If you’re lucky, you’ve been offered a bigger and better job, so you can resign smugly. But if you’re unlucky... you got too old. Someone younger and, heaven forbid more talented, with better hair and better teeth, came along. The tightrope that we more “mature” broadcasters walk is the one where we have to stay one step ahead, or fall to our public doom, pursued by headlines screaming how we were “dumped,” “fired,” or worse.

Here in England, a lady called Cilla Black started life as a little girl singing at Beatles gigs in Liverpool. In the sixties she was a massive star with a string of number one hits. But she’s no fool is our Cilla, and she saw the writing on the wall, skillfully reinventing herself as a television host. In the eighties and nineties, Cilla became the safe pair of hands for millions of prime time TV viewers, hosting Blind Date every Saturday night. But as time passed, the network executives got itchy. Was Cilla really what we wanted? Was she still pulling in the audiences? Could we find a younger Cilla? And then, wickedly, rumours leaked that other, younger women had been approached to take over her show, were she to, er, “move on”. Cilla’s days, chirruped the gossips, were numbered. Now, Cilla is no fool and she did the best thing she could do -- nothing. Nothing that is, until she was asked if she’d do one of her shows LIVE rather than on tape.

Well, the show went well, Cilla did a great job following the script to the letter .... until the very end, when she turned to the camera, smiled and announced that that was it.
Goodby, Finito…our Cilla was resigning. Live. On air. To a shocked nation.

I wish I’d been with the network execs when it happened, or at their panic board meeting the next day. But I wasn't -- I just had the pleasure of watching Cilla, the old fox, outfox them all. Oh and of course, please bear in mind that nothing I’ve just said reflects in any way on the management of Up to the Minute, who are to a man and a woman, highly intelligent, motivated people, incapable of an ungenerous thought or action.

By Simon Bates