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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Obituary: Ned Sherrin
Close-up portrait of Ned Sherrin
Ned Sherrin, a veritable renaissance man
He was a humorist, anecdotalist, raconteur, impresario, producer, presenter, playwright, actor and author - a veritable renaissance man.

Ned Sherrin, who has died from cancer aged 76, rose to fame as the man behind That Was The Week That Was, the ground-breaking '60s TV show that ruffled establishment feathers with its satire on the political characters of the day.

He went on to leave his mark across a whole swathe of Britain's artistic life.

Sherrin was born in Somerset, a million miles away from the theatrical and broadcasting world he came to embody.

His father ran a farm and Sherrin confessed he didn't like getting his hands dirty.

National Service took him away from the milking and his subsequent time at Oxford gave him his first real taste of the theatre, first in serious drama, later in revue.

There, he discovered that his talent lay not so much in writing and performing as in producing.

Nevertheless, after gaining a law degree, he trained as a barrister and was called to the bar in 1955.

But any thought of a legal career was soon banished when an old friend he met in the street offered him a producer job at Associated Television.

Sherrin directing a sketch involving a policeman on TW3
Sherrin directing a sketch on TW3
In his autobiography, Sherrin wrote: "In a long career of happy accidents, perhaps the most useful was to have been born in 1931 and to complete National Service, Oxford and bar exams precisely in time for the opening of commercial television."

Commercial television gave him his break, but the BBC made Ned Sherrin's name.

In 1957 he moved to the Corporation and directed the Tonight programme along with presenters Cliff Michelmore, Fyfe Robertson, Alan Whicker et al.

Then, in 1962 came That Was The Week That Was (TW3) which contained not only satire but also serious interviews, sketches and music too.

Sherrin said the format came about as a way of combining "the two things that I'd always enjoyed most - which were a lively interest in current affairs and a terrible fascination for vaudeville, musicals and old jokes".

Hosted by a young David Frost, the show was to prove controversial in the way it poked fun at politicians not used to such irreverence. It became essential Saturday night viewing for some 12 million people.


Sherrin described the programme's brief at the time as "aware, pointed, irreverent, fundamentally serious, intelligently witty, outspoken in the proper sense of the word".

TW3 also launched the careers of writers and performers such as Dennis Potter, Willie Rushton, Kenneth Cope, Lance Percival and Millicent Martin.

The show was taken off after two years - it had proved too contentious, especially with an election approaching.

But there were follow-up programmes in similar vein such as Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, and BBC3.

Sherrin at social function
Sherrin was a much sought-after raconteur
Sherrin then turned his attention to writing, producing and directing for the stage and screen, often in collaboration with the writer and critic, Caryl Brahms.

He produced several West End plays and musicals including I Gotta Shoe and The Mitford Girls.

He also directed the highly successful Side By Side by Sondheim and Keith Waterhouse's Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell with Peter O'Toole in the title role.

On screen, he directed The Virgin Soldiers, Up Pompeii and The National Health among others.

A great raconteur, Sherrin won the Benedictine "After Dinner Speaker of the Year" award in 1991 and was made a CBE in 1997.

He also compiled anthologies of theatrical anecdotes and humorous quotations.

Sherrin's great store of funny stories made him ideally suited to radio programmes such as BBC Radio 4's Loose Ends, which he presented between 1986 and December 2006, and music quiz Counterpoint.

Asked once about the worst aspect of his radio career, he said: "I can't think of a bad thing about it. If I wasn't being paid for it I would be doing it as a hobby."

For more than half a century, his urbane wit influenced so much of Britain's artistic life, in the theatre, on screen and on the air.

A life in entertainment

Entertainer Sherrin dies aged 76
01 Oct 07 |  Entertainment
How will you remember Ned Sherrin?
01 Oct 07 |  Have Your Say


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