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Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: September 26, 1944 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Liverpool, England, GB Profession: game show host, TV host, news anchor, disc jockey, columnist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though she has caused a great deal of controversy throughout her career, former journalist-turned-game show host Anne Robinson nonetheless established herself as a formidable presence in print and on television. While known to American audiences as the Queen of Mean - a sobriquet she earned for her biting and often harsh treatment of contestants on "The Weakest Link" (NBC, 2001-02) - Robinson cut her teeth as a pioneering journalist for The Daily Mail in her native England. Not long after joining The Sunday Times, however, she suffered from a decline into alcoholism, which destroyed her marriage to editor Charlie Wilson and almost did the same to her career. But by 1980, Robinson emerged sober and renewed, becoming the first female editor at The Daily Mirror, where she developed her caustic style as a columnist writing under the nom de plume, the Wednesday Witch. Robinson soon made the jump to television by first becoming a panelist on "Question Time" (BBC, 1979- ), then as host of the long-running talk show "Points of View" (BBC, 1979- ). Robinson cemented her infamy when her U.K. hit, "The Weakest Link," crossed the Atlantic to American shores, which - thanks to her icy demeanor and oft-repeated...

Though she has caused a great deal of controversy throughout her career, former journalist-turned-game show host Anne Robinson nonetheless established herself as a formidable presence in print and on television. While known to American audiences as the Queen of Mean - a sobriquet she earned for her biting and often harsh treatment of contestants on "The Weakest Link" (NBC, 2001-02) - Robinson cut her teeth as a pioneering journalist for The Daily Mail in her native England. Not long after joining The Sunday Times, however, she suffered from a decline into alcoholism, which destroyed her marriage to editor Charlie Wilson and almost did the same to her career. But by 1980, Robinson emerged sober and renewed, becoming the first female editor at The Daily Mirror, where she developed her caustic style as a columnist writing under the nom de plume, the Wednesday Witch. Robinson soon made the jump to television by first becoming a panelist on "Question Time" (BBC, 1979- ), then as host of the long-running talk show "Points of View" (BBC, 1979- ). Robinson cemented her infamy when her U.K. hit, "The Weakest Link," crossed the Atlantic to American shores, which - thanks to her icy demeanor and oft-repeated catchphrase "You are the weakest link - goodbye!" - established her as an international star.

Born Anne Josephine Robinson in Crosby, a suburb of Liverpool, on Sept. 26, 1944, she was the daughter of successful poultry dealers, and worked her way up from chicken gutter to sales representative in the family business during holiday breaks from her convent boarding school in Hampshire. She was allegedly expelled from the school for unspecified mischief, whereupon she commenced working as a clerk at a law firm. In the late 1960s, she abandoned notions of becoming an actress to pursue journalism, relocating to London to work as the first female trainee at The Daily Mail in 1967. Her arrival was allegedly marked by her stepping from a new MG sports car - a gift from her mother - and proceeding into the publication's office wrapped in a new fur coat.

Robinson's splashy debut soon set the tone for her tenure at The Daily Mail. She landed a permanent position on the paper's reporting staff after being the first to file a story on the accidental drug overdose death of Beatles manager Brian Epstein in 1967, which she secured through her friendship with his solicitor. A year later, she garnered controversy for a romantic relationship with the paper's deputy editor, Charlie Wilson. The couple married in 1968, which required Wilson to fire her from the paper's staff due to nepotism issues. Unemployment was short-lived, as she soon found a home at the The Sunday Times.

A daughter, Emma - later a disc jockey and television presenter in her own right - was born in 1970, but the marriage was soon headed for disaster. Robinson had developed a serious drinking problem which led to a divorce from Wilson in 1973. She spiraled further downward until 1978, when she quit The Sunday Times and returned to her hometown to recuperate.

She was quick to rebound; first at The Liverpool Echo, and later at The Daily Mirror, where she served as Assistant Editor. It was at the Mirror that she developed her acidic style through a weekly column entitled "Wednesday Witch." Editorial decisions such as her 1982 investigation into Princess Diana's alleged struggle with bulimia further solidified her public image as a tough and even thoughtless newshound. However, the approach was not without its downside; the Diana story resulted in her being ousted from the Mirror, but again, she encountered little difficulty in landing on her feet at a variety of other UK papers.

Robinson made her television debut in 1982 as a panelist on the debate program "Question Time" (BBC, 1979- ). She soon progressed to "Point of View" (BBC 1, 1961- ), a series devoted to letters and comments on current events, which she hosted from 1988 to 1999. Her onscreen time soon expanded to the weekly investigative series "Watchdog" (BBC, 1980- ), as well as a weekly radio series on BBC 2 from 1988 to 1993. However, it was a game show - not a news program - which gave Robinson her greatest exposure.

The series was the early evening series "The Weakest Link," which featured nine contestants in an elimination-style competition which required them to answer an increasing number of questions, which would whittle down their numbers until a single winner was announced. As host, Robinson played up her ice queen reputation to the hilt by delivering her questions in a dry, clipped monotone. She also verbally flayed many a guest who stumbled over an answer, dismissing losing contestants with a terse utterance - "You are the weakest link - goodbye!" The latter was the nation's mantra within months of the show's debut on BBC 2 in 2000, and its viewing audience grew so large that a primetime version was ordered for BBC 1.

The popularity of "The Weakest Link" made Robinson an in-demand guest on other UK programs, where she was frequently given the floor to criticize all manner of public figures. Occasionally, this strategy would backfire, such as a 2001 appearance on the comedy show "Room 101" (BBC 2, 1994-2007), in which she allegedly made rude comments about the Welsh writer-comedian Ben Elton. Robinson was later forced to apologize for her statements about Elton and did promotional work for their tourist bureau. Robinson also earned criticism for suggesting that a "Weakest Link" contestant touch her in an inappropriate manner, and for reducing John Noakes, host of the long-running children's program "Blue Peter" (BBC 1/BBC 2, 1958- ), to tears after inquiring after the show's beloved (and deceased) canine mascot, Shep.

Loved and loathed by the UK viewing public with almost equal fervor, Robinson was a bonafide celebrity by the new millennium, and as befitting her status, published her autobiography, Memoirs of an Unfit Mother, in 2001. In the book, she recounted her struggle with alcohol with remarkable candor, and would continue to do so in interviews following its publication. That same year, she became the rare UK television presenter to make the leap to American television when NBC brought "Weakest Link" to American audiences. A sizable hit with viewers in its first season, Robinson blossomed anew as a pop culture figure thanks to ceaseless promotion of the show on talk shows and other media. Robinson's dismissive screen persona also found favor with audiences, but licensing issues and a precipitous ratings drop in its second season brought the Stateside "Link" to an end in 2002.

Undaunted, she returned to England to continue as the host of the original "Link," and continued to expand her onscreen empire to include a number of additional programs, including the quiz series "Test the Nation" (BBC, 2002- ) and "What's the Problem? With Anne Robinson" (BBC, 2005- ), a satirical news program. She even contributed an occasional acting role; most notably in a 2005 episode of the long-running science fiction program "Doctor Who" (BBC 1, 1963- ) as "Anne Droid," a mechanical host of a vicious future version of "Weakest Link" that permanently dispatched losing contestants. All of these credits and many others helped to make Robinson one of the UK's most recognized - and wealthiest - television stars, as cited in reports from 2004 to 2006. However, she was still occasionally flecked by controversy. In 2008, she was banned from driving by the Portsmouth Magistrates' Court, who cited four previous offenses as the reason for their ruling. The sentence, which made headlines across the UK, prevented her from operating a vehicle for six months.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Midnight Movie Massacre (1988) Dr Van Buren
3.
 Heatwave (2001)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Worked in London for a news agency
1967:
Hired by the <i>Daily Mail</i> as a journalist; reportedly the only female reporter on the tabloid's staff at that time
1968:
Wrote for London's <i>Sunday Times</i>
:
After breakup of first marriage, developed a dependency on alcohol
1979:
Hired as editor at <i>Daily Mirror</i>
1983:
Began writing an opinion column
:
Was host of the British TV news series "Points of View" (BBC)
:
Served as main anchor for the consumer affairs program "Watchdog"
2001:
Americanized version of "The Weakest Link" premiered on NBC in April
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"My role makes Dynasty's Joan Collins, the last British bitch to appear on American TV, look like Mother Teresa." --Anne Robinson quoted in The Daily Telegraph, January 12, 2001.

"Because having done 'Watchdog' for eight years and making corporate heads terrified of me, people would say, 'Will you stand next to my washing machine? It doesn't work and I want to send the manufacturer a picture.'"-- Anne Robinson Eonline

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Charles Wilson. Newspaper editor. Met when they worked together at the <i>Daily Mail</i>; later became an editor at the London <i>Times</i>; married in 1968; divorced in 1973; had custody of daughter Emma following divorce.
husband:
John Penrose. Agent. Married in 1980; separated in 1990; reconciled c. 1992 after being separated for two and one-half years.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Bernard Robinson. Schoolteacher.
mother:
Anne Robinson. Shop owner. Owned a poultry stall at Liverpool's St John's market.
brother:
Peter Robinson.
daughter:
Emma Wilson. Producer. Born c. 1970; was subject of bitter custody battle between her parents in 1973, with her father eventually winning custody.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Memoirs of an Unfit Mother" Little, Brown

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