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Reg Watson R.I.P.

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  • Reg Watson R.I.P.

    Legendary Australian television producer:


  • #2
    The Guardian obituary



    • #3
      Reg Watson, ‘Godfather of the modern soap’ who created ‘Crossroads’ and the smash hit Australian suburban drama ‘Neighbours’ – obituary

      Reg Watson and Noele Gordon on the set of ‘Crossroads’
      CREDIT: ITV/REX13 OCTOBER 2019 • 2:19PM

      Reg Watson, who has died aged 93, was a pioneering Australian-born television scriptwriter, director and producer once described as the “godfather of the modern soap”.

      He created and spent 10 years as a producer on the Midland motel-based saga Crossroads and went on to intorduce the world to Neighbours, set in a cul-de-sac in a Melbourne suburb, that went on to become Australia’s longest-running drama series and one of the country’s most successful media exports, achieving huge popularity among British audiences in the late 1980s and 1990s.

      Born in Brisbane in 1926 Reginald James Watson grew up on a sugar farm in Queensland and began his career as an actor and announcer on Australian radio before moving to Britain in 1955. Hired by Lew Grade, then deputy managing director of Associated Television (ATV) which held the ITV franchise for the Midlands region, he moved to Birmingham in 1956 as ATV’s Head Of Light Entertainment.

      In this role, he created many programmes, most notably Lunchbox, a popular daily chat show hosted by Noele Gordon, and in 1958,, asked for some ideas to build on the programme’s success, he pitched a proposal for a new Midlands based soap opera in which Noele Gordon would star.

      Reg Watson, Noele Gordon and Lew Grade at a party in 1971 to mark the 1,500th episode of 'Crossroads'

      It was not until 1964, after the BBC had launched its own soap, Coronation Street, that Lew Grade granted his approval. He did not, Grade said, want a gritty drama, but a series that built on entertainment and escapism. And he wanted it to run five days a week . Initially called The Midland Road, the project was renamed Crossroads by Watson just before its run began. Scripted by Hazel Adair and Peter Ling it achieved audiences of 18 million, regularly beating Coronation Street in the ratings, and was even voted “best TV show” by readers of The Daily Telegraph.

      The series would run for 24 years, and Watson produced more than 2100 episodes but, as he recalled, “critics hated it and Lady Plowden, the Chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority wanted it off the air because she found it to be ‘distressingly popular’.”

      So when, in 1973, Watson and the series’s director Alan Coleman, were head-hunted by the Reg Grundy Organisation, Australia’s best-known producer of popular television, stung by the criticism heaped on Crossroads, Watson returned to Australia as Grundy’s head of entertainment.

      More drama hits followed, including The Young Doctors, a soap inspired by ATV’s Emergency Ward 10 and Prisoner: Cell Block H, both of which became popular in Britain, where they aired on ITV.

      In the early 1980s Watson was commissioned to create a new drama for Australia’s Channel Seven and had the idea of creating a show about the lives of ordinary people on the model of Coronation Street, but based on his own Brisbane childhoood.

      The first episode of Neighbours, introduced with a theme-tune promoting the idea that “good neighbours become good friends” , screened in Australia on March 18 1985, but was a bit of a flop. Indeed, ratings were so poor that Channel Seven decided to pull the plug after four months. The following year, however, Channel Seven’s rival Channel Ten bought and revamped the show, addding more humour and replacing many of the older members of the original cast with younger, more teen-friendly performers such as Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue. It soon began to rise up the ratings charts.

      “The concept for the show was based on communication between teenagers and parents,” Watson explained. “The thing that had always worried me as a writer ... [was] that we had a tendency for the teenager to say ‘the old man doesn’t understand me’ and for the father to say, ‘I don’t understand the kid’. This wasn’t necessarily the way things really are in real life, because you get parents who really do communicate with their children, and I thought, ‘why do we keep doing this (generation gap) thing?... So I thought ‘why don’t we turn it around the other way so that the kids can really talk to the adults?’ The basis for the whole concept was
      that these people really communicated with each other."

      'Neighbours': the 1988 onscreen wedding between Charlene (Kylie Minogue) and Scott (Jason Donovan), attracted 19.6 million viewers in Britain alone.

      A year later, Lew Grade’s son Michael, then the BBC’s Director of Programmes, looking for shows to fill the corporation’s new daytime slot, brought Neighbours to Britain. It was an almost instant success, attracting four million viewers a day, a figure which rose much higher after Grade’s daughter told him how many of her schoolfriends enjoyed the show and suggested that it be moved to a slot later in the day so that they did not have to bunk off school.

      Neighbours was decidedly old-fashioned – the sun always shone and there was no sex, drugs or bad language. Indeed, when the scriptwriters tried more risqué storylines in the 2000s, viewing figures plummeted. Broadcast from January 1988 at 5.35pm, the soap became a part of the British daily routine, so much so that 19.6 million viewers watched the 1988 onscreen wedding between car mechanic Charlene (Minogue) and student Scott (Donovan). The careers of both actors
      were launched by the show, along with several others.

      Reg Watson

      Neighbours went on to become the longest-running drama series in Australian television history. In Britain it was significantly responsible for keeping the BBC’s audience share close enough to the 50 per cent level which Mrs Thatcher’s government regarded as the minimum required to justify the licence fee.Some language academics also credited it with infleuncing an alteration in the speech patterns of young Britons, many of whom had adopted the Australian habit of raising the tone of voice towards the end of a sentence, as if an unanswered question were left hanging.

      A shy man who rarely gave interviews, Watson retired in 1992 and in 2010 was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the media.

      Reg Watson, born 1926, died October 12 2019
      Last edited by Maurice; 13th October 2019, 03:19 PM.