Sunday, November 6, 2022

CBC Interview With Sydney Newman at the BBC


One evening last week I took a break from my motions of nothingness to take some time to do some exploring on YouTube (a form of nothingness in motion, at times). I thought of Sydney Newman, the father, of a sort, of the long-running BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who. Quickly I found a 43-minute piece of film from 1966. "Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman discusses his career with CBC" is an excellent interview with the man who went on to initiate and guide two stellar British television programmes, Doctor Who and The Avengers. However, there is much more to the story than those two series.

Newman was born and bred here in the great city of Toronto ― great now, and, I'm sure, great in 1917. He followed his dream working as a successful commercial artist, and the money was good, but Newman eventually decided to go into film production. A stint at the NFB (National Film Board) led to him working in television at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). After producing several distinguished one-off dramas, including Arthur Hailey's Flight into Danger, a live-to-air presentation from 1956, and one starring James Doohan of later Star Trek fame, Newman was courted and hired by ABC Weekend TV in the U.K. with the brief to do equally outstanding television drama programmes, but for the British public. That he did. The BBC then convinced him to jump ship and the rest is history: Doctor Who.

While Who is discussed in very brief terms, "Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman" more importantly is an instructive insight on the issues of producing television and the dichotomy between serving the public as a public broadcaster with that of the business of drawing sufficient viewers to validate and sustain one's position as a fiduciary of television "arts and entertainment".


Simon St. Laurent said...

After writing the above piece I decided to take a few minutes and rewatch the video. I corrected something afterwards. In the original, I had suggested that Sydney Newman found it hard to make a living as a commercial artist. This information I had drawn from another source, and had forgotten that the interview subject himself states that he was successful, making some good money at the time.

Something perhaps more important I noticed upon rewatching the vid tonight: Newman was very articulate. Of course this quality did not escape me the first time around, but it was more obvious during the second. Imagine a person in his position today presenting himself or herself so well, in diction and knowledge. One might argue that the BBC today would have someone of that caliber. On this side of the pond such positions are seemingly staffed by dopes. I've met a few from this unconscious type; one of whom was a higher-up at Global Television here in Toronto. Scary stuff.

DonaldAR said...

Very interesting and informative post.

It makes me think back on Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story." As a lad, I loved to catch segments of the show, via an old AM radio sitting atop the refrigerator in our kitchen (it was seldom off during mealtime).

Ironically, the rest of that story is: Harv apparently had some personal views I can't abide, and was allegedly close friends with a fella some many might revile - U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Simon St. Laurent said...

I was a big radio listener in my youth but don't remember that programme. Very interesting!

Thanks for the kudos and note!