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Geoffrey Wheeler

Broadcaster.

Born: September 24, 1930; Died: December 30, aged 83.

Geoffrey Wheeler, who has died aged 83, was a popular, avuncular television presenter known for Songs of Praise and the quiz shows Top of the Form and Winner Takes All, a show which he also created.

He was born in Manchester and was raised in various parts of the country as his father was a hotel manager and went where the work was. After school, the young Wheeler studied law at Manchester University but his heart was in writing and broadcasting. He auditioned for a radio drama and this led to him making radio programmes while he was still at university. He made some 200 for the corporation and in 1954 was appointed their radio producer for the northern region.

His forte was variety and he produced shows featuring some of the leading comedians of the day including Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd. He also became one of the presenters on the radio schools quiz Top of the Form.

The show had started in 1948 with schools taking part in different parts of the country. Wheeler would present from one of the schools and another presenter would handle the other team. The show was a big hit and transferred to television in 1962 with Wheeler becoming the sole presenter.

He stayed in the job for 13 years and, although he was popular, the show was also seen as a little bit straight and stuffy and was satirised by Monty Python among others.

Throughout the 70s and into the 1980s, Wheeler was also a presenter on Winner Takes All, an ITV quiz show which he devised. The original idea was for a show based on horseracing but in the end contestants answered general knowledge questions and gambled on whether they would win.

From the first series in 1975, Wheeler did the voiceovers with Jimmy Tarbuck presenting, but when Tarbuck left in 1986, Wheeler took over as the main host for the final two series.

For a long time, Wheeler was also one of the regular presenters of Songs of Praise. He was with the programme for 21 years, presenting more than 250 editions. He was also a panelist on Call My Bluff, presented a nostalgia series for Radio 4, On This Day, and read stories on Jackanory.

He was pre-deceased by his wife Sheila and is survived by a son and daughter.

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