TV producer and director;
Born: October 7, 1936; Died: September 18, 2012.
Michael Hurll, who has died aged 75 after suffering from Parkinson's disease, was a TV producer and prolific maker of light entertainment programmes. He worked on Top of the Pops for seven years from 1980, produced The Two Ronnies for many years and also set up the British Comedy Awards.
Born in Twickenham, south-west London, he was educated at the city's exclusive St Paul's School, where he directed Jonathan Miller, a fellow pupil, in a revue. On leaving school, he worked in the theatre before joining the BBC in 1956 as a runner alongside fellow newcomer Michael Winner, the film director and writer, bringing on guests for the Billy Cotton Band Show. He progressed to stage manager before directing the programme.
He went on to work on shows with stars such as Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Twiggy and Ken Dodd and also oversaw Seaside Special in the mid-to-late 1970s, Ronnie Corbett's Saturday Special in 1977, and, in 1974, the Eurovision Song Contest, which was staged in Brighton and won by Abba.
He injected new life into Top of the Pops by adding a party atmosphere to the chart programme between 1980 and 1987. During the same period, he enjoyed some of his happiest times as executive producer of the sketch show The Two Ronnies.
He credited Ronnie Barker with giving him an education in comedy. "We'd sit and talk about comedy, and he explained to me how a joke has rhythm to it," he told Barker's biographer Richard Webber. As a writer and star Barker had a huge influence over the shows and Hurll said: "My basis was, 'He knows all about comedy', and what you did was what Ronnie B wanted. You just agreed and he was always right."
But behind the scenes he was not always complimentary about his colleagues. Bob Hope was "the nastiest man I've ever worked with," he told comedy website Chortle. Jerry Lewis, too, was "a nasty piece of work", while Rod Hull was "the most miserable, nastiest man you ever met".
In 1990 he devised for ITV the British Comedy awards, which have become a permanent fixture on television and recently switched to Channel 4.
In 1994, after going freelance, his Michael Hurll Television company took over production of the awards from LWT. As a freelance, Hurll also reunited with Cilla Black and was executive producer of Blind Date and two Surprise Surprise specials.
In 2000 his son Jeremy, also a television producer, died of a brain haemorrhage.
He is survived by his wife, Sandra, whom he married in 1964, their surviving son Simon and two grandchildren.
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