I've read in quite a few books and articles that until Sydney Newman became the BBC's Head of Drama in 1963, a drama programme's producer also directed it. Was this always the case? I'm thinking of programmes like Z Cars which started about a year before Newman joined the BBC. With 31 epsisodes in its first series, and a break of less than two months before the start of the second series, I can't believe that one person could have produced AND directed it all. Anybody know for sure? Thanks.
There may be some truth in this, although I think that by the time long-running series such as Z Cars came along the production and directorial duties were shared.
There's an article in the Television Annual for 1953 about the duties of the producer's secretary and it makes a number of references to the producers role:
...is her producer busy this morning? He has not arrived at the office....he may have had a gruelling fortnight rehearsing last night's production...and who can blame him-after a couple of weeks of daily rehearsals and bouts of overtime, late into the night, making last minute alterations as the production built up?
and then later in the article...
At first rehearsals producer and cast go over the script...
At long last the day of the play's TV production arrives. There is a final camera rehearsal....this often continues to within an hour of the transmission time for the play. Throughout the producer is in the production control gallery. Before him a row of monitor TV screens. Each of these can show him the picture from one of the cameras he is using on the studio floor. He can obtain some changes in the lengths of shots by talking to the camerman. All along he gives instructions to a vision mixer...
Throughout this piece there is no mention of a director. Also, at the back of the book is a section titled 'Here Are The Programme Makers - Your Guide to the Men and Women behind the Credit Captions' listed in the back are producers, departmental heads, chief executives, music designers and scenic designers....
but no directors.
Last Edit: Dec 12, 2009 11:15:15 GMT 1 by Laurence
I have a book in front of me entitled 'Serials on British Television 1950 - 1994' by Ellen Baskin. Looking through this before 1962 there are occasional listings of producers and directors but they are rare. After 1962 there is always a producer and director listed.
However in the pre 62 shows without a director there is a credit for a 'designer'. This vanishes after 62. So it is possible that the producer took on some aspects of the role now given to a director but with the support of a designer, who presumably did things that would later fall to the director.
Further to this - I found another reference regarding Sydney Newman's restructuring of the BBC Drama Department:
Newman's first task at the BBC was to break up the existing structure of the Drama Department and reform it into the Drama Group. This new section covered three new departments, Series, Serials and Plays. Under the old system a Producer was expected to produce, direct and liase with the writer on his script. Under the new system each Producer was allocated a Director and Story Editor, leaving him free to oversee the production in a far more strategic manner.
Many thanks for all that info. I have another, related question regarding Newman's reorganisation of Drama. I've often read that one of the first things he did was to abolish the Children's Department, after which all children's drama would be made by his new Drama Group. Is it more likely that what Newman did was to recommend that children's drama be made by the Drama Group, which his superiors acted upon, rather than abolishing the whole Children's Department? The Children's Department is mentioned in histories covering the period after its supposed abolition, and in accounts of Doctor Who's creation, it is said that they resented Doctor Who's production team, feeling that they (the Children's Department) should have been making it. Are my suspicions about this correct? Thanks again for any help on this.
Apparently there was a lot of pressure on the Children's Department throughout the late 1950s and 60s to regain the audience it had lost to ITV but without dropping its standards. Owen Reed was put in charge of Children's but it was very vulnerable. The main area where it was under pressure was in drama. Traditionally, the department had provided drama both during the week and at the weekends which was seen to have more family appeal. In 1962 both drama and light entertainment were taken away from Children's and Reed was moved sideways to Staff Training, followingt a disagreement over a serialisation of Oliver Twist. Ursula Eason took over Children's until 1964 when it was amalgamated with Women's Programmes to form Family Programmes with Doreen Stephens in charge.
The new department survived until 1967 when the Children's Department was reinstated.
I can't say for certain that Newman had anything to do with any of these changes but I hope the little potted history helps.
I know this was posted quite some time ago, but I was doing some research on British drama series featuring the police and have come up with a more positive answer regarding when the BBC first started using a dedicated director as opposed to a producer/director.
I MADE THE NEWS
I Made the News was a landmark TV series for the BBC in several respects. Firstly, it was the first time that directors had been used in television. Previously on both sound radio and television the accepted format was for writer-producers to direct their own shows. The BBC had recently finished making the docu-drama series War on Crime, a police procedural based on real-life cases from the files of Scotland Yard. But one of the criticisms of War on Crime was that as it was only shown monthly - it failed to build up any audience loyalty. As a result, producer Robert Barr was given the job of setting up a production unit capable of turning out weekly dramas of the type that were then being produced in America. I Made the News was to be the case study for this new production process, turning out 12 weekly half-hour docu-dramas. Due to its experimental nature, I Made the News was more concerned with quantity than quality, a move that proved to be quite controversial within the BBC itself. Critics too, appeared to be divided. The News of the World commented: "I Made the News has only occasionally made good television. As the creator of 'Raffles' may not have said, there's no police like Holmes." The series centered round criminal investigations but didn't restrict itself to the British police force. Some episodes were set in Holland, others involved the FBI and the leading investigator from those cases were invited to top and tail the programme which was told, like War on Crime, in dramatic reconstruction. The face of the Metropolitan Police was Robert Fabian whose exploits would later form the BBC series Fabian of the Scotland Yard. In her book on the development of the police series' on British television, 'Beyond Dixon of Dock Green', Susan Sydney-Smith writes that I Made the News "both increased production and considerably enhanced the BBC's ability to compete with the arrival of Independent Television." Building on the experience gained on I Made the News, the BBC produced another six-part series called Pilgrim Street. This series, made in co-operation with Scotland Yard, contained many of the elements that would eventually be employed in the BBC's best remembered police series, Dixon of Dock Green. 12 episodes of 30 minute duration. BBC 1951.
All the series' named above are now fully reviewed on Television Heaven