Carole Hersee (born 25 November 1958 in Redhill, Surrey) is a costume designer who is best known for appearing in the centrepiece of the iconic United Kingdom television Test Card F (and latterly J, W, and X), which aired on BBC Television from 1967 to 1998. As such she became the most aired face in British television history.
The card was developed in 1967 by her father, BBC engineer George Hersee, who started by snapping test photographs of Carole and her younger sister, Gillian, with Carole ultimately being chosen to appear on the card simply because Gillian was without her two front teeth at the time. She was posed with a strategically placed Noughts and Crosses board (the "X" painted in the left centre square was directly in the middle of the screen) and her own clown doll named Bubbles, which was brought on set specifically for the photo shoot. She was paid £100 for the shoot. The card was used on television in the UK and elsewhere for more than four decades, usually while there was no on-air programming.
Because of the card's prolonged exposure on the BBC, Hersee received fan mail during her teenage years and was regularly contacted by media outlets for interviews, but she quickly tired of the publicity. According to a November 2006 article featuring test card enthusiast Keith Hamer, Hersee is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest television appearance in history — an estimated total of 70,000 hours, equivalent to nearly eight continuous years. However, she denied this in a May 2007 interview with The Telegraph, saying, "[It] can’t be put in the Guinness Book of Records because it isn’t a record that somebody else can achieve, apparently." Hersee still owns the Bubbles doll, which she today keeps stored inside a box.
Hersee went on to attend Heath End School in Farnham, and as an adult became a seamstress for a supplier of theatrical costumes. She has designed costumes for several West End theatre productions and films, including The Last Emperor, Flash Gordon and Dangerous Liaisons.
On the 2006–2007 television series Life on Mars, Hersee was depicted as a fictional character called the Test Card Girl, was played by Rafaella Hutchinson in Series One and by Harriet Rogers in Series Two. Appearing to the protagonist in brief visions, she would often taunt Sam Tyler (John Simm) and occasionally scare him greatly. She is the final character seen in the series when she mimes turning a switch at the side of the screen and the image disappears similar to an old television set.
- Paul Sawtell, ‘Hersee, George (1924–2001)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, January 2005
- Personal Column: Test-card special – The Independent, 27 May 2007
- Talking about the Test Card – The Telegraph, 25 May 2007
- The man who listens to test cards by choice – The Telegraph, 3 November 2006
- Carole Hersee at the Internet Movie Database
- The Test Card Circle Details of the UK's Trade Test Transmissions including the history of the BBC and ITA Test Cards, a look at the music used and full details about the Trade Test Colour Films shown from the late fifties to 1973.
- Revamped testcard – Daily Mail, 22 May 2007