Phillip Schofield first made a name for himself on pop entertainment show ‘Shazam!’ in New Zealand before he returned to the UK and fronted ‘CBBC’.
In the BBC role, he would present to more than nine million viewers – a huge jump from the several thousand who tuned-in while he lived abroad.
The “big day” that the star debuted on the BBC – September 9, 1985 – coincided with the introduction of live links on the channel.
The new feature added extra pressure for presenters who were expected to introduce the upcoming show with 10-15 seconds of ad-lib without any script.
They hoped the links would bond viewers with their presenters, according to Robin McGibbon’s 1992 biography ‘Phillip Schofield: The Whole Amazing Story’
Phillip’s first link was for ‘Blue Peter’ but as luck would have it, technical difficulties meant the show ended “two full minutes early”.
The budding star would have to fill that gap without any pre-written words to assist him and appease those watching at home without them realising there were any behind-the-scenes difficulties.
While many would have “sat there, frozen, struck dumb with panic” fortunately for Phillip he could draw on the years of improvisation that he honed at ‘Shazam!’.
Biographer Mr McGibbon wrote: “He calmly, and almost without thinking, drew on the experience of those three years on TVNZ.
“[Phillip] sailed effortlessly through the two minutes, ending with a smooth link into the following programme.
“The lad was only 23, but he had coped with a mini crisis like a true, veteran professional.”
While many of the BBC’s bosses were “impressed” by how he handled the pressure and averted disaster, one chief was less than impressed.
Pat Hubbard, the then-Promotions Editor, claimed he had to stick up for Phillip and argue against one of the “bigwigs” who “hated” what he saw that afternoon.
He recalled being instructed to “get that cringey wimp off the television immediately” and to terminate his contract.
But Mr Hubbard, who disagreed and fought on Phillip’s behalf, recalled: “I was happy with the way it went and relieved nothing had gone wrong technically.
“Phillip was not especially good, but I knew he would improve with time.”
Fortunately for the star, he would redeem himself months later after the NASA Challenge Space Shuttle disaster – where his sensitive handling of the topic impressed bosses.
Mr McGibbon wrote: “Instead of carrying on with the normal zany behaviour as if he had not seen the terrible news, Phillip talked to his young viewers about the disaster.
“[He] reassured them in such a responsible and mature manner that it was noticed and applauded by his doubting superiors.”