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A 'remarkable Canadian' who changed the face of TV (1987)

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London ENGLAND -- Canadian Press LONDON

A Canadian who became a pioneering giant in British television was honored this week in a special documentary that suggested he may have had "a greater influence on the development of TV than anyone else." Toronto-born Sydney Newman , 69, who produced the first Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, later created the British TV series The Avengers and the long-running Dr. Who. But he is remembered particularly for his creation of the live British drama series Armchair Theatre, on the commercial Independent TV channel between 1958 and 1962.

Newman, also former head of Canada's National Film Board and of dramatic productions for the CBC and the BBC, was praised by contemporaries in an hour-long documentary on Independent TV on Sunday.

"He castigated us," Ted Willis, a writer for the Armchair series, said on the program. "He whipped us. He argued with us. He fought with us. He told us we were rubbish. He told us we were geniuses. But he inspired us." Actress Billie Whitelaw, who starred in many of the productions, remembered the special excitement and tension of performing for live broadcasts with Newman.

"There seemed to be a bravery, experiment, a daring about it and I think a lot of it had to do with a remarkable Canadian called Sydney Newman," she said. "It turned British television on its head." Alun Owen, a writer first produced on air by Newman, particularly appreciated Newman's dream of putting contemporary problems, written by new playwrights, on the TV screen.

"This natural force blew through the corridors of TV and blew a lot of the cobwebs out and made space for us," Owen said. "That man, through the kind of people he developed, probably had a greater influence on the development of TV than anyone else." Newman, who retired to London two years ago, says he's honored by the accolades for his work.

"It's just divine," he said in an interview. "It was really thrilling." The documentary, entitled And Now For Your Sunday Night Dramatic Entertainment, kicked off a new British showing of six original plays from the series' archives, including Harold Pinter's first televised play, A Night Out, in which he starred.

The series ranked in the Top 10 almost every Sunday night it was broadcast.

"I think I had a pretty good feel for my audience," said Newman.

Newman, whose hobbies include sculpture and painting, also broke new territory in the design of the studio set and camera work, insisting that the cameras move during the action to create maximum fluidity instead of remaining static.

He joined the NFB, under John Grierson, as a splicer-boy in 1941 and later went to CBC where he became supervisor of drama in 1954.

In 1958, he went to Britian's Independent TV. When the highly acclaimed Armchair series ended, he took over as head of BBC drama, where he created the classic cult series The Avengers and the still-running Dr. Who science-fiction show, as well as The Forsythe Saga, largely credited with launching the world demand for quality British TV productions.

Back in Canada, he was president of the NFB from 1970-75 before returning to London where, despite retirement, he now is anxious to start work on an independent production on the Bloomsbury Group, the influencial, mainly Cambridge-educated group of critics, artists and authors living in the 1920s in London's Bloomsbury district.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Gecan, Anna (1987-02-11). A 'remarkable Canadian' who changed the face of TV. The Globe and Mail p. C10.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gecan, Anna. "A 'remarkable Canadian' who changed the face of TV." The Globe and Mail [add city] 1987-02-11, C10. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gecan, Anna. "A 'remarkable Canadian' who changed the face of TV." The Globe and Mail, edition, sec., 1987-02-11
  • Turabian: Gecan, Anna. "A 'remarkable Canadian' who changed the face of TV." The Globe and Mail, 1987-02-11, section, C10 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=A 'remarkable Canadian' who changed the face of TV | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/A_%27remarkable_Canadian%27_who_changed_the_face_of_TV | work=The Globe and Mail | pages=C10 | date=1987-02-11 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 April 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=A 'remarkable Canadian' who changed the face of TV | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/A_%27remarkable_Canadian%27_who_changed_the_face_of_TV | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 April 2019}}</ref>