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Allan McKeown

Television producer.

Born: May 21, 1946; Died: December 24, 2013.

Allan McKeown, who has died aged 67, was a groundbreaking independent television producer who began his working life as a hairdresser and became a pioneer in the television revolution of the 1980s before moving to America and producing award-winning shows for his wife, the comedienne Tracey Ullman.

He was born in Ealing and grew up in Hainault in Essex. His father was a builder's clerk of works but the young McKeown choose an entirely different path and trained to become a hairdresser with Vidal Sassoon. By the mid-1960s, he had opened his own salon and had a number of celebrity clients, including Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Caine, and the Beatles.

Eventually, McKeown, who was also the hair stylist on several movies including If in 1968 and Get Carter in 1971, used his connections to move into television, producing commercials for James Garrett and Partners and by the 1970s he was ready to branch out on his own. He formed a production company, Witzend with the comedy writers Ian Le Frenais and Dick Clement and in 1979 produced the film version of one of their most famous comedies, Porridge.

This led to McKeown and his company producing a succession of comedy and light drama shows for ITV in the 1980s, including the hugely successful Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, about a group of Geordie builders working in Germany, Shine on Harvey Moon, the nostalgic comedy set in the 1940s, and Girls on Top, a sitcom which starred his wife along with Ruby Wax, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French as a group of chaotic flatmates.

The 1980s was also a period of great change in television, with the opening up of the markets to independents, and McKeown took full advantage of it. He formed SelecTV, which was Britain's first independent production company, and was a founding member of the Meridian consortium, which won the ITV franchise for the south-east of England.

In the mid-90s, he sold his stake in SelecTV and moved to the States with Ullman, producing her comedy series Tracey Takes On, which won eight Emmy awards. He also produced The Tracey Ullman Show, which is most famous for including the first appearance of the animated characters that would later get their own show in The Simpsons.

Away from television, McKeown produced several stage shows including the controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera; he also worked with Yoko Ono on the Broadway musical Lennon about John Lennon.

He is survived by his wife and their two children Mabel and John.

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