Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 11:53 UK

BBC's Cotton 'had golden touch'

Veteran entertainer Bruce Forsyth has paid tribute to the late Sir Bill Cotton, the BBC's former head of light entertainment, who has died at the age of 80.

Speaking on the BBC News Channel from his home in Surrey, Mr Forsyth said "we're all very sad in showbusiness today."

He knew what the public wanted; that was Bill's secret. Through his father, Billy Cotton, he knew all about the variety side of the business which helped him a lot. When he got in such a high position at the BBC he used all his experience and knowledge about public opinion on entertainment. That's why he was so strong in his field.

Bruce Forsyth with Marilyn Ward, Jenny Cash, Jennifer Bailey and Wendy Isles
The Generation Game was based on a Dutch TV show
I was having a bit of a lull in my career in the late 60s - there was nothing much happening. Then he got this show for me, The Generation Game, which was from Holland.

It was a completely different show in Holland; it was two and a half hours with all different things in, even news bulletins in the middle of the games. It was quite outrageous.

But Bill said if we took all the other stuff out and just did the games, do you think that would be a good game show? I said I don't see why not; it looked a wonderful idea. It proved to be one of the biggest successes the BBC have ever had.

He knew what the public wanted, and he gave the public what they wanted.

Bruce Forsyth pays tribute to his friend and former employer Sir Bill Cotton

Bill had the golden touch for the golden age of television. I don't know why they call it light entertainment though. Were Morecambe and Wise light entertainment? The Two Ronnies?

I think it was very heavy. It got millions and millions of viewers; it was heavy entertainment, giving the general public what they wanted. I've never liked the idea of light entertainment; I've never understood it and I never will.

Bill came to the first Strictly Come Dancing show. There were lots of things wrong as far as I was concerned, but he said this is a great show, stay with it and it'll be a big, big hit. It was his kind of programme; it had everything Bill would look for in a programme. He would have loved to have had it in the 70s under his name.

Tributes paid to BBC TV's Cotton
12 Aug 08 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Sir Bill Cotton
12 Aug 08 |  Entertainment

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