Sydney Newman

From Academic Kids

Sydney Newman (April 1, 1917 - October 30, 1997) was a film and television producer, and was responsible for creating and overseeing numerous popular British television shows of the 1960s, including The Avengers, Doctor Who, The Wednesday Play and The Forsyte Saga.

He was born Sydney Cecil Newman in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He started in the film business in Canada in 1943 directing such films as Fighting Norway and producing films such as Banshees Over Canada. Moving into television in the 1950s, he became the Director of Drama at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's fledgling television network. In 1958, he moved to the United Kingdom and became the Supervisor of Drama at Associated British Corporation. While there, he created one of the most popular British television shows of the time, The Avengers, in 1961, although his most profound achievement at ABC was arguably his work on Armchair Theatre, which developed a serious dramatic portrayal of the lives of the British working classes (the bulk of the television audience and especially of the ITV audience) never seen on television previously (Newman famously reacted against the dominance of middle and upper-class "drawing-room" plays on the BBC with the now very dated but then absolutely accurate remark "damn the upper classes - they don't even own televisions!").

Due to the conventions of British television in the 1960s, Newman never received on-screen credit for creating either The Avengers or Doctor Who.

In 1963 he took the post of Head of Drama Group at the BBC, and initiated the creation of Doctor Who, the longest running science-fiction television series ever. Arguably outstripping even his previous achievements, this solidified his position as one of the most powerful men in the television business at the time, and as one of the most creative and free-thinking people to be given free rein in the BBC as a result of the liberalising influence of its director-general Hugh Carleton Greene. He was also responsible for the creation of other series such as The Wednesday Play and Adam Adamant Lives!. He was initially sceptical about The Forsyte Saga, perhaps unsurprisingly considering that it was a period piece concerned with the lives of the upper middle classes.

He left the BBC in 1967, and returned to Canada the following year. He was Director of the CBC from 1972 to 1975.

Newman died in 1997 of a heart attack in Toronto.

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